November 18, 2015

A maple-flavoured world’s first?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

On the Mercatus Centre site, Laura Jones points out an unexpected Canadian first:

Canada recently became the first country in the world to legislate a cap on regulation. The Red Tape Reduction Act, which became law on April 23, 2015, requires the federal government to eliminate at least one regulation for every new one introduced. Remarkably, the legislation received near-unanimous support across the political spectrum: 245 votes in favor of the bill and 1 opposed. This policy development has not gone unnoticed outside Canada’s borders.

Canada’s federal government has captured headlines, but its approach was borrowed from the province of British Columbia (BC) where controlling red tape has been a priority for more than a decade. BC’s regulatory reform dates back to 2001 when a newly elected government put in place policies to make good on its ambitious election promise to reduce the regulatory burden by one-third in three years. The results have been impressive. The government has reduced regulatory requirements by 43 percent relative to when the initiative started. During this time period, the province went from being one of the poorest-performing economies in the country to being among the best. While there were other factors at play in the BC’s economic turnaround, members of the business community widely credit red tape reduction with playing a critical role.

The British Columbia model, while certainly not perfect, is among the most promising examples of regulatory reform in North America. It offers valuable lessons for US governments interested in tackling the important challenge of keeping regulations reasonable. The basics of the BC model are not complicated: political leadership, measurement, and a hard cap on regulatory activity.

This paper describes British Columbia’s reforms, evaluates their effectiveness, and offers practical “lessons learned” to governments interested in the elusive goal of regulatory reform capable of making a lasting difference. It also offers some important lessons for business groups and think tanks outside government that are pushing to reduce red tape. These groups can make all the difference in framing the issue in such a way that it can gain wide support from policymakers. A brief discussion of the challenges of accurately defining and quantifying regulation and red tape add context to understanding the BC model, and more broadly, some of the challenges associated with effective exercises in cutting red tape.

While I’m a huge fan of reducing the regulatory burden in theory, I can’t help but expect to be disappointed about the implementation in reality… (however, should the federal bureaucracy somehow manage to perform nearly as well as the BC experiment, it’ll be Justin Trudeau getting the credit for it, rather than Stephen Harper — but better that the country benefits as a whole rather than the former PM gets boasting rights.)

November 6, 2015

Canada’s new Minister of National Defence

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the National Post, Adrian Humphreys provides a look at the new defence minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet:

Defence minister Harjit Sajjan

Many defence ministers pose for photos with military hardware, but few pull off the true badass combat stance as well as Harjit Singh Sajjan — draped in flak jacket and camouflage, gripping an assault rifle on an actual battlefield.

Sajjan was, until recently, a decorated Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armed Forces, the first Sikh Canadian to command an army regiment.

“Command breaks down barriers because no one looks at what you look like when the bullets are flying,” he said in 2011. “Having to carry your, you know, wounded soldiers off the battlefield, not just wounded, but the ones that have been killed and place them into a helicopter, nothing prepares you for that.”

Sajjan, sworn in Wednesday as Canada’s new Minister of National Defence, was, in military lingo, “a trigger puller.”

He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and three times to Afghanistan, for which he was awarded one of the military’s highest recognitions, the Order of Military Merit, for reducing the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province.

“He has a taste for the reality of war and that’s very, very important,” said David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

“He will have seen the aftermath of the effect of war on some of our men and women, which is a major issue with veteran’s affairs,” said Bercuson.


He served as a reservist, and was deployed with the Canadian peacekeeping forces to Bosnia in 1996.

In 2006 he served in Afghanistan, playing a key intelligence advisory role to Brig.-Gen David Fraser in the successful Operation Medusa offensive against the Taliban. He returned to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011.

Rising to the rank of reserve lieutenant-colonel, he was named commander of the B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), in 2012.

I’m pleased that Trudeau managed to find someone to fill this cabinet post who has actual military experience in the field (as opposed to a former general or admiral). I hope he can fight his political corner to get the Canadian Forces the updated equipment they so desperately need, even if the F-35 is not going to be part of the package (Trudeau explicitly promised to drop the F-35 purchase during the election).

October 29, 2015

For a change, a sensible trademark ruling

Filed under: Americas, Business, Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Timothy Geigner on a remarkably sensible trademark judgement from a BC court:

For this, we travel up to Canada, where a Federal Court judge presided over a trademark dispute between Pacific Western Brewing and Cerveceria del Pacifico over the branding of their brews. At issue was the labels on packaging for PWB’s Pacific Pilsner and Cerveceria’s Pacifico Clara. PWB argued at court that the branding and language was too similar and would confuse customers. Here are samples of each beer’s branding.

Pacific Pilsner vs Pacifico Clara Cerveza

So, yeah, other than roughly similar uses of the word “Pacific”, there’s not a whole lot of similarity here. Normally, this is about when we’d hold our collective breaths and wait to see if the court comes down with a sensible ruling based on the likelihood of customer confusion, or if the court instead chooses the over-protectionist route, focusing on the common language and nothing else. In this case, Justice Luc Martineau appears to have gotten every last bit of it right.

    Martineau said the first impression given by the label Cerveceria uses for its Pacifico brand “is of its obviously foreign origin” and that it’s “highly stylized, with many distinctive design elements, including strong and contrasting colours and font in red, gold, blue, green and yellow.” He further said the label “differs visually, phonetically, and semantically” from all of the marks PWB uses for its Pacific brands of beers.

    Martineau also dismissed as without merit PWB’s argument that contrary to a statement on the register, Cerveceria del Pacifico was not first sold in Canada as early as April 1986. He noted that an affidavit from Cerveceria stating the beer was introduced at Expo ’86, where it was sold at a Mexican restaurant called Ole Cantina, was not challenged by PWB counsel. By December 1989, Pacifico was listed with the B.C. Liquor Distribution branch and in August 1990, a registration protecting the mark was issued.

    “The delay of almost 25 years before attempting to invalidate the registration weighs heavily against a finding of confusion,” Martineau said of PWB’s action.

May 7, 2015

Vancouver – where “happiness” doesn’t co-relate with “quality of life”

Filed under: Cancon, China, Economics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Reducing the realities of life in a given city to a quick numerical value or data point on a chart requires you to ignore subtleties and local influences. Last month, Mark Collins linked to this article by Terry Glavin on what the “quality of life” numbers for Vancouver actually conceal:

If the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual top 10 world cities rankings are what you’ve been relying on, you probably weren’t surprised last month when the global human resources outfit Mercer tagged Vancouver on its Quality of Living index as the best city in North America. But you might have been surprised this week when Statistics Canada released a study showing that, by a variety of indices, Vancouverites are the unhappiest people in Canada, falling dead last among the residents of 33 cities across the country.

We like to think of Lotusland’s grand metropolis as a place where people ski, sail, ride their bikes, swim, and hike though lush rainforests, all in the same day. But StatsCan’s annual survey of median household income in Canadian cities routinely puts Vancouver close to the bottom of the heap on that same list of 33 cities, and in January the Demographia International research institute ranked Vancouver second to last in a global survey of 378 cities on its Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver’s median household income in 2014 was $66,400, while the city’s median home price was 10.6 times higher: $704,800. Only Hong Kong fared worse, and just barely. Hong Kong also tops Vancouver, again only barely, as the property investment bolt-hole most favoured by Mainland China’s loot-laden millionaires. For years, we’ve been instructed to pretend that this is somehow mere coincidence. You can’t get away with talking to Hong Kongers like that, but Vancouverites take it sitting down.

In happier places like Saguenay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, there’s manufacturing, dairy farming, forestry and mining, and there’s a high degree of neighborliness and civility. But Vancouverites make most of their money from increases in the real estate value of whatever property they might be lucky to own. This tends to skew any real sense of hometown belonging, and nothing quite so rattles the cages as loose talk about the elaborate, federally-sanctioned swindle that has been keeping the bubble inflated all these years.

April 8, 2015

The sinking of HMCS Annapolis

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

HMCS Annapolis Sink Day April 4th 2015 from Geoff Grognet on Vimeo.

Sinking of HMCS Annapolis as an artificial reef. HMCS Annapolis is being sunk in Halkett Bay on Gambier Island by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia. It will serve as a recreational dive site, and provide a habitat for fish and other marine life.

December 29, 2014

HMCS Annapolis to be sunk as artificial reef on the west coast

Filed under: Environment, Military, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:58

HMCS Annapolis at Pearl Harbour in 1995 (via Wikipedia)

HMCS Annapolis at Pearl Harbour in 1995 (via Wikipedia)

After a protracted legal battle, the hull of HMCS Annapolis will finally be sunk as an artificial reef in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound. Jennifer Thuncher reports for the Squamish Chief:

In her prime, the 1960s-era HMCS Annapolis warship sailed the open seas off the eastern and western Canadian coasts for the Royal Canadian Navy.

During the late 1980s, the helicopter-carrying destroyer was the first Canadian navy ship fitted with a towed array sonar system. She was decommissioned in 1996.

Come January, after years of anticipation, a court case and plenty of controversy, the Annapolis will be sunk in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound, to serve her afterlife as an artificial reef.

“The good news is… all the permits are now in place, Environment Canada has done its final inspection… and they passed the inspection,” said Richard Wall of the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, which bought the Annapolis from the federal government in 2008.

Wall said Fisheries and Oceans Canada “is happy because we are creating habitat, not destroying habitat.”

The original plan had called for the Annapolis to be sunk in 2009.

One of the main hold-ups has been getting the ship cleaned up enough to be sunk.

The federal government “has very stringent disposal at sea regulations which we have been following, and Environment Canada would not allow us to sink until they were satisfied, which is one of the reasons the big delays happen,” Wall said.

The crash of commodity prices around the time the Annapolis project started also contributed to the long delay in preparing the ship for sinking.

HMCS Annapolis disposal 1 HMCS Annapolis disposal 2

October 11, 2014

WW2 Japanese balloon bomb discovered in British Columbia

Filed under: Cancon, History, Japan — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Wayne Moore on the recently discovered remnants of a unique Japanese weapon that was used to bomb the North American mainland during World War 2:

Remains of Japanese balloon bomb in BC

Seven decades after thousands of “balloon bombs” were let loose by the Imperial Japanese Army to wreak havoc on their enemies across the Pacific, two forestry workers found one half-buried in the mountains of eastern British Columbia.

A navy bomb disposal team was called and arrived at the site Friday in the Monashee Mountains near Lumby, B.C.

“They confirmed without a doubt that it is a Japanese balloon bomb,” said RCMP Cpl. Henry Proce.

Japanese balloon bomb illustration“This thing has been in the dirt for 70 years …. There was still some metal debris in the area (but) nothing left of the balloon itself.”

The forestry workers found the device Wednesday and reported it to RCMP on Thursday.

Proce, a bit of a history buff himself, accompanied the men to the remote area and agreed that the piece appeared to be a military relic.

The area was cordoned off and police contacted the bomb disposal unit at Maritime Forces Pacific.

It was a big bomb, Proce said. A half-metre of metal casing was under the dirt in addition to approximately 15 to 20 centimetres sticking out of the ground.

“It would have been far too dangerous to move it,” Proce said. “They put some C4 on either side of this thing and they blew it to smithereens.”

July 5, 2014

The Tsilhqot’in Nation and British Columbia, now with legal standing and everything

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:32

When I saw the initial reports on the Supreme Court’s decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation versus British Columbia it sounded like the Supremes were ordering the province to pack up and move out … that most (all?) of the land previously known as British Columbia was now to be handed back to the First Nations bands. I guess it’s not quite so apocalyptic, although it will complicate things. Colby Cosh talks about the historical record that informed the decision:

Like everyone else who has studied the Supreme Court’s dramatic decision in the case of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, my response largely amounts to “Well, sure.” “Tsilhqot’in” is the new accepted name of the small confederacy of B.C. Indian bands long called the Chilcotin in English. They live in a scarcely accessible part of the province, and one reason it is scarcely accessible is that the Chilcotin prefer it that way. In 1864, they fought a brief  “war” against white road builders, killing a dozen or so. The leaders of the uprising were inveigled into surrendering and appearing before the “Hanging Judge,” Matthew Begbie. True to his nickname, he executed five of the rebels. But that road never got finished.

In most of Canada, occupancy by “settlers” whose ancestors arrived after Columbus has been formally arranged under explicit treaties. There is a lot of arguing going on about the interpretation of these treaties. But, broadly speaking, most of us white folks outside B.C. have permission to be here. Our arrival, our multiplication and the supremacy of our legal system were all explicitly foreseen and consented to by representatives of the land’s Aboriginal occupants. The European signatories of those treaties recognized that First Nations had some sort of property right whose extinction needed to be negotiated.

Oddly, this concept was clearer to imperial authorities in the 18th and early 19th centuries than to those who came later. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, for instance, recognized the right of Indians to dispose of their own lands only when they saw fit. By the time mass colonization was under way in British Columbia, the men in charge on the scene had absorbed different ideas. Concepts of racial struggle were in vogue, and so were straitlaced, monolithic models of human progress.

And the problems going forward?

The biggest problem for large infrastructure projects in the B.C. Interior may not be the collective nature of “Aboriginal title” alone, but the fact that it is restricted in a way ordinary property ownership isn’t. “It is collective title,” writes the chief justice, “held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown, or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.” The special category of legal title devised for First Nations turns out to have a downside: Even completely unanimous approval of some land use by a band or nation may not suffice if people who do not yet exist are imagined disagreeing with it. Would you care to own a car or a house on such terms?

Update, 11 July: Perhaps I spoke too soon that this ruling didn’t mean the non-First Nation inhabitants need to move out of the province.

British Columbia First Nations are wasting no time in enforcing their claim on traditional lands in light of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing aboriginal land title.

The hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nations served notice Thursday to CN Rail, logging companies and sport fishermen to leave their territory along the Skeena River in a dispute with the federal and provincial governments over treaty talks.

And the Gitxaala First Nation, with territory on islands off the North Coast, announced plan to file a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeal on Friday challenging Ottawa’s recent approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta.

The Kwikwetlem First Nation also added its voice to the growing list, claiming title to all lands associated with now-closed Riverview Hospital in Metro Vancouver along with other areas of its traditional territory.

They cite the recent high court ruling in Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia.


In the short term, the ruling will impact treaty negotiations and development in the westernmost province, where there are few historic or modern treaties and where 200 plus aboriginal bands have overlapping claims accounting for every square metre of land and then some.

“Over the longer term, it will result in an environment of uncertainty for all current and future economic development projects that may end up being recognized as on aboriginal title lands,” wrote analyst Ravina Bains.

June 17, 2014

BC supreme court attempts to extend jurisdiction over Google’s global services

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:10

Michael Geist talks about another court attempting to push local rules into other jurisdictions online — in this case it’s not the European “right to be forgotten” nonsense, it’s unfortunately a Canadian court pulling the stunt:

In the aftermath of the European Court of Justice “right to be forgotten” decision, many asked whether a similar ruling could arise in Canada. While a privacy-related ruling has yet to hit Canada, last week the Supreme Court of British Columbia relied in part on the decision in issuing an unprecedented order requiring Google to remove websites from its global index. The ruling in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack is unusual since its reach extends far beyond Canada. Rather than ordering the company to remove certain links from the search results available through Google.ca, the order intentionally targets the entire database, requiring the company to ensure that no one, anywhere in the world, can see the search results. Note that this differs from the European right to be forgotten ruling, which is limited to Europe.

The implications are enormous since if a Canadian court has the power to limit access to information for the globe, presumably other courts would as well. While the court does not grapple with this possibility, what happens if a Russian court orders Google to remove gay and lesbian sites from its database? Or if Iran orders it remove Israeli sites from the database? The possibilities are endless since local rules of freedom of expression often differ from country to country. Yet the B.C. court adopts the view that it can issue an order with global effect. Its reasoning is very weak, concluding that:

    the injunction would compel Google to take steps in California or the state in which its search engine is controlled, and would not therefore direct that steps be taken around the world. That the effect of the injunction could reach beyond one state is a separate issue.

Unfortunately, it does not engage effectively with this “separate issue.”

February 3, 2014

Rick Mercer visits the West Coast Railway Heritage Park

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 14:38

Rick travels to Squamish, BC to ride and restore historic locomotives.

November 13, 2013

BC school bans kindergarten kids touching each other

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

Apparently Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Aldergrove has had a rash of injuries to kindergarten students recently, so the solution is to ban all physical contact between students:

A letter went out to Coghlan kindergarten students’ parents on Friday, one of those types that often sit in backpack over a weekend or are put aside to be read later and somehow never are.

Julie Chen found the letter, explaining a new no-touch policy for kindergarten students, on Monday morning as she was packing lunch for her five-year-old daughter.

It reads, in part: “We have unfortunately had to ban all forms of hands-on play for the immediate future … we will have a zero-tolerance policy.”

Penalties for making physical contact with a schoolmate include being grounded during play time and/or a trip to the office “for those who are unable to follow the rules.”

“I read the letter, it said there had been quite a few injuries, I said, ‘OK,’ and kept reading,” Chen said. “When I saw no hands-on would be allowed, I just got mad, I got so upset.


School employee Arthur Bourke drove up in his van and was happy to defend the policy.

“I don’t know how anyone would be against this,” Bourke said. “They’re trying to make it safe for everybody.

“They do a terrific job here of making sure everyone is safe.

“It’s something we have to do — if we don’t control it, it will get out of hand.”

The letter to parents cited “several injuries” in the past few weeks.

September 16, 2013

Speed Kills … Your Pocketbook

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:06

Does speed really kill? Sometimes, yes, but when the speed limits are set artificially low, and enforcement is targeted to those areas where the limit is far below traffic speed, then all the speed kills campaign does is keep drivers complacent about paying fines that don’t improve safety.

In this video, I investigate the culture and science surrounding speed enforcement in BC, coupled with my trademark Simpsons, Supertroopers, and Family Guy references.

August 8, 2013

A brief moment of sympathy for Thomas Mulcair

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:54

Richard Anderson finds a drop of sympathy for the unexpected plight of the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition:

It must be galling to be Thomas Mulcair right now. A decades long career spent climbing the greasy pole of Quebec politics. A quick ascent to the federal level and then, by the oddest stroke of luck, an unexpected death places you into the leader’s role. It seems that with a bit of luck your old nemesis the Liberal Party might be finished after the next election. Happy days to be leader of the Official Opposition.

That is until the MSM started following around the latest bright shiny thing: Justin Trudeau.

While the Once and Future King is touring the sumptuous beauty of British Columbia, poor Tommy is wandering through the backwoods of Northern Ontario. The region is horribly neglected. An afterthought to provincial administrators in downtown Toronto. The area above the French River, sadly, has always failed to capture the imagination of Canadians.

The settlement of the West is one of the great romances of Canadian history, if not the greatest. The charm of the Maritimes is irresistible. The North’s terrible majesty demands admiration. Quebec is Quebec. Southern Ontario is the center of English Canada, Toronto commanding the region like, well, an Imperial Capital around which all else revolves.

Northern Ontario is kind of just up there. Somewhere between Barrie and Winnipeg. What small romance that region conveys is from faded memories of the great mineral boom a century ago, and the twangy recollections of Stompin’ Tom. Only he could make Sudbury Saturday Nights memorable. At least Hamilton has the virtue of being between Burlington and Niagara.

Poor, poor Tommy. There isn’t a major media outlet that gives a damn about his “listening tour.” Leader of the NDP shaking hands with a miners union representative doesn’t make for great copy, especially not when competing with Justin’s adorable family.

July 26, 2013

BC Premier highlights antiquated inter-provincial trade rules with wine

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:22

The rules governing inter-provincial trade in wine date back to the Prohibition era. BC’s Christy Clark would like to see the rules brought into this century:

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark brought a case of her province’s wine to the heart of Ontario’s vine land.

Clark presented the vintages to her dozen provincial and territorial colleagues in a bid to lower trade barriers.

Even though Ottawa eased interprovincial rules surrounding wine last year, it is still illegal for Ontarians to buy wine in bulk directly from B.C. vineyards.

To get around that, Clark’s six-person entourage brought two bottles apiece to have a full case for the premiers at their annual Council of the Federation gathering.

I linked to an item on this issue by Michael Pinkus earlier this year.

May 24, 2013

UBC’s latest big idea

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:45

Alex Usher calls it the best idea he’s seen all year:

If you’re a UBC student, staff, or faculty member, and want to start a business, you’re eligible for up to $5000 worth of business services (though, in practice, most use far less). And unlike virtually every other entrepreneurship system in Canadian PSE, there are no requirements whatsoever with respect to using UBC technology, nor is there any stipulation that the business be some kind of technology enterprise. Want to open a flower shop? This fund’s for you.

There’s no catch. UBC certainly isn’t interested in equity, for instance. All they want is recognition. All companies that move through the program must display a logo declaring themselves as “UBC-affiliated companies” for a period of five years.

How brilliant is that?

First, it creates a great, dense network between an institution and small businesses in its community (which will no doubt pay off philanthropically, down the road). Second of all, it allows the institution to get a much better handle on the post-graduation activities of its entrepreneurs, and hence allows UBC to highlight its larger role in job creation and innovation in British Columbia. Frankly, UBC could pay for this out of the Government Relations budget, and it would make complete sense — how great will it be to be able to walk into an MLA’s office and rattle off the names of all the new, “UBC-affiliated” businesses that have started-up in his/her riding?

It’ll be interesting to see how this works out in the long run, as $5,000 isn’t enough to establish a business but it can be a helpful amount of money to an otherwise undercapitalized business.

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