Quotulatiousness

October 11, 2014

WW2 Japanese balloon bomb discovered in British Columbia

Filed under: Cancon, History, Japan — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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 Russon @ 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.

May 20, 2013

Counterfeit $100 bills now in circulation, despite all the anti-counterfeiting features

Filed under: Cancon, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:44

The new polymer bills were touted as having very hard to counterfeit features, and people apparently believed what they were told — because they haven’t been bothering to check the new bills:

Less than two years ago, the head of the RCMP said Canada’s new polymer bank notes would go a long way in deterring the threat of counterfeiting.

Just last month, the Bank of Canada announced the notes’ sophisticated transparency and holography made them “the most secure bank note series ever issued” by the institution.

Too bad somebody forgot to tell criminals in British Columbia.

Mounties and municipal police in Metro Vancouver are warning the public that several of the fake $100 bills have been detected in the region over the past few weeks.

The fanfare about the security features on the bills, may be part of the problem, said RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound.

“Because the polymer series’ notes are so secure … there’s almost an overconfidence among retailers and the public in terms of when you sort of see the strip, the polymer looking materials, everybody says ‘oh, this one’s going to be good because you know it’s impossible to counterfeit,'” he said.

“So people don’t actually check it.”

May 15, 2013

Pollsters wrong-footed (again) by BC election results

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:07

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this:

First things first: British Columbians last night witnessed the most incredible comeback in recent political history, and the biggest choke the province has ever seen.

In the days ahead, Christy Clark’s stunning, come-from-behind win will be endlessly compared to Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s surprise win over Wildrose in 2011. But this is so much harder to believe.

For starters, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives were actually leading Wildrose in polls right up until the election. The B.C. Liberals have essentially been trailing the NDP since 2009 (briefly, after the 2011 leadership race that saw Clark take the Liberal helm, the party moved ahead of the NDP in polls before again plunging far behind).

And in Alberta, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith made serious campaign blunders. Many Albertans scurried back to the PCs, worried Smith wasn’t ready for prime time. But B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix made no major mistakes. In fact, Dix’s campaign had so impressed the Globe and Mail that yesterday it published a premature ode to his campaign. Dix’s positive style would surely become a model for politicians across the country, it argued.

Just how historic was the Liberal win? Going back 20 years, there are no examples of a government in a parliamentary system trailing by such a wide margin for the 18 months leading up to an election, then coming from behind for the win.

And the Liberals didn’t just win; they increased their seat count, giving Clark a comfortable, 50-seat majority (the NDP won just 32 seats).

Those results almost perfectly reversed predictions of pollsters who, after yet another spectacularly bad call, will certainly face tough questions.

March 11, 2013

BC’s ruling Liberal party facing very long odds of re-election

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:40

British Columbia’s next provincial election is still a couple of months away, but the pundits are already making plans for what happens after the BC Liberal party is taken out to the knacker’s yard and the NDP takes power (based on recent polls and the amazing ability of the Liberals to generate bad press):

Assuming everyone and their brother hasn’t been lying to pollsters, the election is pretty much in the bag for the BC NDP. Not only is there strong “time for a change” momentum aiding the party, after three terms of the BC Liberals, but recent occasions where the Premier, Christy Clark, and her entourage only opened their mouths to change feet (e.g. “Ethnicgate”) have brought the prospects of a competitive election down sharply.

Clark’s road map for the election has never been good. As reported on Feb. 15 in your Beacon News, before the budget and Ethnicgate erupted, the absolute best case for the BC Liberals was 34 seats — a respectable loss. A roadmap today would see 25 or fewer seats if everything breaks their way.

There are 85 ridings in the province, so 43 seats held by a single party is a majority. In addition to the Liberals and the NDP, there’s also a Conservative party in BC, but it apparently acts as a role model for dysfunctional organizations:

Meanwhile, John Cummins’ BC Conservatives seem equally determined to destroy their party. The party, at the moment, is going into an election without any of its key officers: between purges run by the leader’s coterie and resignations in disgust, the party’s officers are missing in action. Riding associations are walking, as leader Cummins overrides their nominating selections to impose his own choice of candidates.

So, in the best traditions of sauve qui peut, there’s a fair bit of talk about a new party to replace the discredited Liberals and the self-destructing Conservatives:

That’s why individuals affiliated with both the BC Conservatives and the BC Liberals are starting to organize for a new party. The project is nicknamed “Free Enterprise Party 3.0″.

[. . .]

Growing a new party, goes the thinking, puts everyone on an even footing. Those key Liberals who retired rather than run again under Christy Clark’s banner might be enticed to shift over and play a role in building a new party. Riding associations would be built, with no one grandfathered in. The new party, in turn, would dump all the baggage of the past years in one fell swoop.

There’s evidently some interest from the moneyed who normally support the “anything-but-the-NDP” option in the province. They’ll top up the Liberal coffers for the election — but are looking to shift their focus after it if the BC Liberals are crushed.

Of course, while the PR fiascos are real, the polls are only a way marker. Everyone who confidently predicted the outcome of the last Alberta election is now a lot more wary of the opinion polls. Nobody wants to provide the 2013 equivalent of the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.

February 23, 2013

Provincial budgets range from less-than-accurate to verging on financial fraud

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

Andrew Coyne, after a short diatribe about our first-past-the-post electoral system (he’s agin’ it), gets down to brass tacks about provincial finances:

As bad as the federal government is, the provinces are worse. And as horrendous as the provinces are generally, the record in some provinces borders on the fraudulent. Saskatchewan and Alberta, for instance, have overspent their budgets in the past decade by an average — an average — of nearly 5%. And since each year’s overshoot becomes the baseline for next year’s budget, the cumulative impact is to produce spending, in the fiscal year just ended, vastly larger than was ever specifically authorized in advance: in Saskatchewan’s case, nearly 40% larger.

That’s as best the [C. D. Howe Institute] can make out. Provincial accounting is notoriously haphazard and inconsistent. Not only does each province use its own rules and procedures, making it impossible to compare the public accounts from one province to another with any confidence, but in several provinces — Newfoundland and Quebec are the worst offenders — the public accounts are not even stated on the same basis as the budget.

And while the public accounts must ultimately prevail, efforts to reconcile the two sets of figures, and to explain the discrepancies, remain spotty. In some provinces — Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia — auditors have refused, repeatedly, to sign off on the books without attaching reservations.

So not only can voters have little confidence that governments will spend what they said they would, they can have little ability even to reckon how much they overspent, or to compare their own province’s performance with the others’. All in all, a thoroughly disgraceful performance. (Honourable exceptions: Ontario and Nova Scotia, though voters in both provinces have other reasons to doubt their governments’ fiscal candour.)

December 31, 2012

Using the term “Mother Gaia” unironically

Filed under: Environment, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:07

In the Globe and Mail, Gordon Gibson discusses the “Church of Green”:

Religions have certain characteristics. They consist of a body of belief based on faith (as, for example, in God). This faith is not to be challenged, distinguishing religions from other belief sets. Scientific theories, for a counterexample, must always be questioned. Not so with religion. Unwavering faith is the hallmark.

Religions of the sort decried by Mr. Bouchard have high priests who can speak ex cathedra and gain immediate belief. David Suzuki, Al Gore and Amory Lovins, among others, have this otherworldly gravitas. They have their religious orders. Just as there are Jesuits and Benedictines, there are Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

Religion has an enormous usefulness to many individuals. But there’s more. Religion is, by its nature, absolutist. Because it embodies the Truth, one should not deviate. Of course we all sin, but deliberate tradeoffs are not permissible. It’s not allowed to do a little bit of evil to become a little bit rich, and especially not great evil for great wealth.

Such absolute rules can work fine for individuals. They can do as they wish and take the consequences. It’s where religion is imported to govern the doings of the collective — of a society — that the trouble begins.

[. . .]

Now, no one could argue against the need for great weight to the natural environment. The difficulty comes in agreeing — or not — to tradeoffs. If we take an absolutist position, we humans are rather bad for the planet, so we should all do the decent thing and stop having children.

This was Mr. Bouchard’s point. His issue in Quebec was “fracking” to produce natural gas. The current “religion” in Quebec is that fracking is bad, just as in B.C. pipelines are bad. Among true believers in both cases, absolutism reigns. The badness is self-evident; the projects must not proceed. You can’t trade a little evil for a little wealth — there must be zero chance of harm.

December 4, 2012

An American view of Canada’s immigration policies

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:11

Shikha Dalmia says that the US could learn useful lessons on immigration policy from Canada:

… Canada’s provincial-nominee program is a model of economic enlightenment. Under this system, 13 provincial entities sponsor a total of 75,000 worker-based permanent residencies a year, and the federal government in Ottawa offers 55,000. Each province can pick whomever it wants for whatever reason—in effect, to use its quota, which is based on population, to write its own immigration policy.

Provinces may pick applicants left over from the federal program. They can also solicit their own applicants from anywhere in the world. In a direct attempt to poach talent from the U.S., some provinces are sponsoring H1-B holders stuck in the American labyrinth.

The government in Ottawa can’t question either the provinces’ criteria or their methods of recruitment. Its role is limited to conducting a security, criminal and health check on foreigners picked by the provinces, which has cut processing time for permanent residency to one or two years—compared with a decade or more in the U.S.

Richard Kurland, a lawyer who is considered Canada’s top immigration expert, notes that provinces use the program for diverse goals such as enhancing existing cultural or ethnic ties with other countries. Not surprisingly, the most popular reason is economic: to augment the local labor market.

The program gives British Columbia the same flexibility to sponsor, say, bricklayers as it gives Ontario to sponsor computer programmers. It doesn’t treat the entire Canadian economy as monolithic and pretend that distant federal bureaucrats can effectively cater to local job markets. (Canada’s federal program is a different story altogether.)

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