Quotulatiousness

August 19, 2017

Pricing electricity generated by wind versus more traditional sources

Filed under: Australia, Cancon, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Australia’s Catellaxy Files responds to a series of misleading pro-wind statements by pointing to the appropriate method of calculating electricity costs:

The first thing to understand – which The Conversation does not – is that electricity is not like pairs of shoes that can be sold at the same price tomorrow as today. The product consumers demand is not a quantity of megawatt hours but the continuous supply of electricity – its permanent availability to them in whatever quantity they require. This necessity for continuous supply places a premium on “despatchable” power from fossil-fuel, nuclear or hydro plants. This type of power is more valuable than power that cannot be controlled (wind, solar), and much more valuable than power that cannot even be predicted (especially wind). Moreover, power that is rapidly despatchable (hydro, some gas turbines) in response to sudden surges in demand or unexpected failures at other plants is more valuable still for its ability to plug gaps at short notice.

These differences in the value of different types of electricity already render The Conversation’s comparison of coal and wind power per megawatt hour useless. And rectifying its analysis is not, as pretended, just a matter of adding in “balancing costs” such as additional rapidly despatchable sources, extra storage capacity, or upgraded transmission equipment. For the insertion of a low-quality, unreliable source into the grid also reduces the efficiency and increases the cost of baseload power from coal or other sources which need to operate continuously to be efficient.

This leads to a second major unappreciated fact, which is that suppliers do not make economic decisions based on costs. Instead they make decisions based on the estimated difference between costs and revenue. If wind power can underbid baseload coal whenever the wind is blowing, existing coal stations won’t start up, and new ones won’t be built, because they cannot operate efficiently being turned on and off all the time, and therefore cannot generate enough revenue to justify operation or construction as the case may be. This in turn leads to a higher and higher percentage of unreliable power in the mix, with eventual blackouts.

The only way of assessing the true cost of wind and solar is to look at the overall electricity price before and after renewables are added to the mix. Once you do that you find overwhelming evidence from all over the world that markets with even modest shares of power from intermittent renewables have considerably higher prices than those without. That this is not a coincidence is confirmed by both the tightness of the correlation, and the equally impressive correlations over time within the same market – as the share of renewables increases, the price of electricity goes up, and it goes up very sharply with even 20-30% of nameplate capacity, or 5-10% of energy output, sourced from wind.

Although the discussion is about Australia’s wind power experiment, the details are also relevant to Ontario, as a recent study pointed out:

Electricity prices in Ontario have increased dramatically since 2008 based on a variety of comparative measures. Ontario’s electricity prices have risen by 71 percent from 2008 to 2016, far outpacing electricity price growth in other provinces, income, and inflation. During this period, the average growth in electricity prices across Canada was 34 percent.

Ontario’s electricity price change between 2015 and 2016 alone is also substantial: the province experienced a 15 percent increase in one year. This was two-and-a-half times greater than the national average of 6 percent during the same period.

From 2008 to 2015, electricity prices also increased two-and-a-half times faster than household disposable income in Ontario. In particular, the growth in electricity prices was almost four times greater than inflation and over four-and-a-half times the growth of Ontario’s economy (real GDP).

The large electricity price increases in Ontario have also translated to significant increases in monthly residential electricity bills. Between 2010 and 2016, monthly electricity bills (including tax) in major Canadian cities increased by an average of $37.68. During the same period, electricity bills in Toronto and Ottawa increased by $77.09 and $66.96, respectively. This means that residents in Toronto experienced electricity price increases of double the national average between 2010 and 2016.

In Toronto and Ottawa, the average monthly bills for residential consumers including taxes in 2016 were $201 and $183, respectively.

Much of the reason for Ontario’s much-higher-than-average electricity costs are the provincial government’s dodgy crony capitalist methods for increasing alternative energy sources in the power mix:

The problem of skyrocketing electricity prices and high bills is a made-in-Ontario problem directly tied to the provincial government’s policy choices. Ontario’s policies around renewable energy (wind, solar, and biomass) have resulted in large additional costs for consumers. More specifically, Ontario’s high electricity prices can be attributed to poorly structured long term contracts, the phase-out of coal energy, and a growing electricity supply and demand imbalance in the province that is resulting in Ontario exporting electricity at a loss.

August 6, 2017

Shock, horror – “local or organic food is … often available only in Canada to the wealthy”

Filed under: Cancon, Germany — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley just got back from a European vacation, where he observed some odd German activity:

Last month, on vacation, I happened across what might be the platonic ideal of a fancy urban farmers’ market. The smell of wood smoke led me to a quiet street in Berlin’s leafy Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood, where a man was smoking various kinds of fish in the middle of the road. As one does. There was a little mobile bicycle-powered coffee shop selling vastly overpriced espresso. There was the requisite improbably expensive produce and charcuterie and cheese. (My God, the cheese. Why do Canadians put up with our benighted dairy industry?) And to shock my Ontarian senses, there was a big booth selling local wines — which one could drink, out of glasses, in whatever quantities one saw fit, right there out in the open. Tipplers weren’t even confined to a secure pen. There wasn’t even a security guard!

Even more than at Toronto’s fancier farmers’ markets, it was abundantly clear this was a place for wealthy people with time to spare. And it never occurred to me that was a problem. A new study co-authored by Kelly Hodgins and Evan Fraser of the University of Guelph suggests it is, however — and a recent headline on the matter made my eyes roll so far back in my head I feared they might get stuck: “Access to ‘ethical’ food often available only to the wealthy, study says.”

“While eating local or organic food is often touted as superior from a health, environmental and oftentimes ethical perspective, such foods are often available only in Canada to the wealthy, with limited access for those living on lower or even middle incomes,” The Globe and Mail reported.

I know. I’m just as shocked as you are. Who would ever have expected that?

August 3, 2017

I’d name this Ontario county, but apparently it’s been trademarked so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

Trademarks. Is there nothing they can’t make worse?

It’s stunning how often trademarks that never should have been granted get granted — leading to all sorts of bad outcomes. One area that sees far too many bad trademarks involves trademarking geographic areas, with the holder of the mark often then trying to lock out local businesses from using the name of the locations in which they reside. If ever there were a trademark type that everyone ought to agree should be rejected, it’s one based purely on geography.

Entirely too many of these slip through. For example, one Canadian man managed to get a trademark on the name of the county in which he resides, with the stated aim not of using it in commerce, but rather protecting that name’s reputation.

    Michael Stinson caused a stir among government officials in Haliburton County last week when they learned he had successfully trademarked the name Haliburton. Stinson says he never intended to deceive or harm anyone, and explains that he trademarked the name so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name of the community.

Now, the Canadian government’s site is pretty clear in stating that this sort of geographic trademark is flatly not allowed, but somehow Stinson got it through anyway. Way to go, Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. As for Stinson, his claim for why he applied for the trademark is neither the purpose of trademarks generally nor is it apparently the actual reason why he got this specific trademark.

    Haliburton County’s chief administrative officer, Mike Rutter, says he’s not sure how the trademark could have been allowed. Rutter says he first became aware of the issue when the county’s chamber of commerce started receiving complaints.

    “We received a call from our local chamber of commerce that Mr. Stinson was attending businesses and advising people that they would owe him money if they were using the name Haliburton,” Rutter says.

If true, this would seem to me that Stinson is a bully, attempting to extort local businesses with a trademark that never should have been approved by the Canadian government. This is the damage that can be done by trademark offices not following their own damned rules and not adhering to the purpose of trademark laws to begin with. Stinson appears to be rather slimy, but it’s worth focusing on the fact that he couldn’t be doing any of this is had the Canadian trademark office bothered to do its damned job.

August 2, 2017

Ontario has scared off foreign home-buyers, but bureaucratic delays still make housing more expensive

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

Josef Filipowicz and Steve Lafleur explain why Ontario’s recent crack-down on foreign home-buyers in the Greater Toronto Area still leaves one of the biggest barriers to affordable housing untouched:

The Ontario Legislature in Queen’s Park, Toronto. (via Wikimedia)

According to a recent announcement from Queen’s Park, 4.7 per cent of properties purchased in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe (between April 24 and May 26) were acquired by foreign individuals or corporations. This in the wake of the raft of measures announced in April including a 15 per cent “Non-Resident Speculation Tax” ostensibly aimed at improving housing affordability.

It’s difficult to say how this portion of the housing market — foreign buyers — ultimately impacts the cost of buying or renting in Canada’s biggest urban region, and it’s far too soon to estimate the effects of the myriad of policy changes the Ontario government is introducing. But what we do know is that the laws of supply and demand apply to housing, and it’s hard to believe that a small percentage of buyers are responsible for the massive appreciation of housing prices in the GTA over the past decade. Rather than focus on a small tranche of buyers, we should focus on ensuring that regulations don’t prevent the supply of new housing from meeting demand.

[…]

So what’s preventing cities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe from issuing more building permits?

In short, red tape at city hall. Between 2014 and 2016, Fraser Institute researchers surveyed hundreds of homebuilders across Canada to better understand how government regulation affects their ability to obtain permits. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe, it typically takes one-and-a-half years to obtain a permit in this region, and per-unit costs to comply with regulation amount to almost $50,000. Approval timelines can also be affected by the need to rezone property. Approximately two-thirds of new homes in the region require this procedure, which adds 4.3 months (on average) before builders can obtain permits.

Another deterrent to more supply is local opposition to new homes. Survey results show that council and community groups in Toronto, King Township and Oakville are more likely to resist the addition of new units in their neighbourhoods, effectively preventing newcomers from moving in.

Update, 3 August: Mission accomplished. Toronto home sales plummeted 40 percent in July.

August 1, 2017

Ontario adopts voluntary self-surveillance app from CARROT Insights

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I often joke about how inexpensive it appears to be to “influence” politicians, but it’s only fair to point out that the voters those easily influenced politicians represent are even more easy to influence:

Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making “good choices” in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users’ accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.

The app, funded by the Canadian federal government and developed by Toronto-based company CARROT Insights in 2015, is sponsored by a number of companies offering reward points for their services as an incentive to “learn” how to improve wellness and budget finances. According to CARROT Insights, “All offers are designed by sources you can trust like the BC Ministry of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and YMCA.” Users can choose to receive rewards for companies including SCENE, Aeroplan, Petro-Canada, or More Rewards, a loyalty program that partners with other businesses.

It’ll be interesting if they share the uptake of this new smartphone app … just how many of us are willing to let the government track just about all of our actions in exchange for “rewards”.

In order to use the app, users are giving Carrot Insights and the federal government permission to “access and collect information from your mobile device, including but not limited to, geo-location data, accelerometer/gyroscope data, your mobile device’s camera, microphone, contacts, calendar and Bluetooth connectivity in order to operate additional functionalities of the Services.”

Founder and CEO of CARROT Insights Andreas Souvaliotis launched the app in 2015 “with a focus on health but the company and its partner governments quickly realized it was effective at modifying behavior in other areas as well,” according to CTV News.

June 18, 2017

Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812

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

Last month, Military History Now profiled a new game (and new Ontario-based game company): unusually for today, it’s not a computer game, but a board wargame:

MHN: Tell us about the game.

Sheppard: Sabres and Smoke: the War of 1812 is a two-player light strategy board game that allows players to relive 16 of the War of 1812’s most important battles. From Queenston Heights to Fort York, players command either the British or American armies in battles that shaped the future of North America.

MHN: Tell us about Hand 2 Hand Entertainment. Who are you guys? How did you get started?

Sheppard: We are based near Toronto, Canada and have been working on Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812 since July of 2016. I founded Hand 2 Hand Entertainment in 2016, the summer after I finished Grade 12, because I although I was lucky enough to find a summer job, there were no hours available. So, I decided to spend my time combining two things that I really enjoy: history and board games. I started by visiting battle sites from the War of 1812 and doing extensive research to make my game historically accurate. From there I created the battle scenarios and the game rules. Hand 2 Hand Entertainment spent the fall and winter designing Sabres and Smoke: The War of 1812, and preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017. This summer, I am running the company out of the Propel Summer Incubator (PSI) program with the Propel Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Western Ontario.

[…]

MHN: The computer wargaming market is enormously popular; what can tabletop games offer that computers can’t?

Sheppard: This is an interesting question. I think there is a certain satisfaction to physically moving units on a battlefield in board games like this. Although you can look at units and terrain from a commander’s perspective in video games, doing it on a board feels more real. Players can look at the board in the same way Generals would have looked at maps when commanding real battles throughout history. I think this is what makes light strategy board games special.

May 26, 2017

Toronto-London high speed train plan – “many Ontarians wouldn’t trust the Liberals to see an HO-scale model of this plan to fruition on time or on budget”

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

Chris Selley discusses the weak-but-barely-plausible high speed train plans announced by the Ontario government the other day:

High-speed rail is expensive — to build, certainly, and more on that shortly, but just as importantly to ride. It’s 202 kilometres from Le Mans to Gare Montparnasse in Paris. The first TGV of the morning takes 58 minutes — total average speed, 208 km/h — and will set you back €45. It’s 180 kilometres from Frankfurt’s Hauptbanhof to Cologne’s Hauptbanhof. The 7:27 a.m. ICE train takes 65 minutes — average speed: 167 km/h — and Deutsche Bahn wants €60 for the privilege. Brussels to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is 195 kilometres. The Thalys will get you there in 92 minutes tomorrow morning, at a relatively modest average speed of 127 km/h and for the eye-watering sum of €82.

This is the sort of distance Ontario’s Liberal government says it plans to cover with high-speed rail — from Union Station in Toronto to London via Pearson Airport, Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo. A report and “preliminary business case” by former federal transport minister David Collenette, released Friday, envisions 185 kilometres of track with a maximum speed of 300 km/h in one scenario and 250 km/h in the other, and by 2025.

The London-to-Toronto trip would take 66 minutes in the faster scenario and 73 in the slower, for a total average speed of between 152 and 168 km/h. Either would represent genuine high-speed rail, and it would come at genuine high-speed rail prices: somewhere between $4 billion and $11 billion under the 250 km/h scenario; somewhere between $15 billion and $44 billion at 300 km/h.

[…]

So it’s a bit of a conundrum for the Liberals. This is a big offer — just the sort of thing people in the GTA say they want when they come back from Cologne, Paris and Amsterdam. It ought to be a reasonably compelling plank of an election platform.

But many Ontarians wouldn’t trust the Liberals to see an HO-scale model of this plan to fruition on time or on budget. It’s vulnerable to the sort of grievance-mongering and populism that sometimes makes it hard to tell a New Democrat from a Tory these days. We haven’t even gotten into the technical details. And ultimately, I’m just not really convinced people want this to happen as much as they say they do — not unless it’s free, and stops just the right distance from their back yards.

On the technical details, here’s a very brief overview from a post I wrote several years back, at the time California was beginning their insane high speed rail project:

The best place to build a high speed rail system for the US would be the Boston-New York-Washington corridor (aka “Bosnywash”, for the assumed urban agglomeration that would occur as the cities reach toward one another). It has the necessary population density to potentially turn an HSR system into a practical, possibly even profitable, part of the transportation solution. The problem is that without an enormous eminent domain land-grab to cheat every land-owner of the fair value of their property, it just can’t be done. Buying enough contiguous sections of land to connect these cities would be so expensive that scrapping and replacing the entire navy every year would be a bargain in comparison.

The American railway system is built around freight: passenger traffic is a tiny sliver of the whole picture. Ordinary passenger trains cause traffic and scheduling difficulties because they travel at higher speeds, but require more frequent stops than freight trains, and their schedules have to be adjusted to passenger needs (passenger traffic peaks early to mid-morning and early to mid-evening). The frequency of passenger trains can “crowd out” the freight traffic the railway actually earns money on.

Most railway companies prefer to avoid having the complications of carrying passengers at all — that’s why Amtrak (and VIA Rail in Canada) was set up in the first place, to take the burden of money-losing passenger services off the shoulders of deeply indebted railways. Even after the new entity lopped off huge numbers of passenger trains from its schedule, it couldn’t turn a profit on the scaled-down services it was offering.

Ordinary passenger trains can, at a stretch, share rail with freight traffic, but high speed trains cannot. At higher speeds, the actual construction of the track has to change to deal with the physical problem of safely guiding the fast passenger trains along the rail. Signalling must also change to suit the far-higher speeds — and the matching far-longer safe braking distances. High speed rail lines cannot be interrupted with grade crossings, for the safety of passengers and bystanders, so additional bridges and tunnels must be built to avoid bringing road vehicles and pedestrians too close to the trains.

In other words, a high speed railway line is far from being just a faster version of what we already have: it would have to be built separately, to much higher standards of construction.

May 12, 2017

“Maybe this is creeping privatization after all. It’s certainly worth a shot”

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

Chris Selley on the neither one thing nor the other state of alcohol retailing in Ontario:

On Tuesday the government enumerated 76 new Ontario supermarkets where, by Canada Day, you will be able to buy beer. That will make a total of 206 Ontario supermarkets where you can buy beer — an artificially limited selection of beer, only in six packs and singles and only during the same bankers’ hours as the LCBO and Beer Store. But still. That’s about one-third as many supermarkets selling beer as there are LCBO outlets selling beer; add in the 212 rural agency stores that sell wine, liquor and beer, and you’ve got almost two-thirds as many private enterprises selling beer as you have government bottle shops.

This could help prove several useful concepts that deserve much wider acceptance in Ontario. One is that it’s very easy for the government to make money off liquor sales without retailing liquor itself. Indeed, it’s easier; that’s why so many governments do it. The supermarkets buy the beer wholesale from the LCBO; the LCBO doesn’t have to worry about paying civil servants to sell that beer or running the stores.

Another is that the private sector can be counted on to keep liquor out of children’s hands. Indeed, with inspections and draconian fines in place, it can probably be trusted more. My observations suggest LCBO employees certainly card everyone who should be carded, but it’s nothing like it is in the U.S. I’m almost 41, not in especially good nick, and I still get asked about half the time.

Might Ontarians develop a taste for all this convenience? The hard cap on beer-in-supermarket licences is 450; having doled them all out, including agency stores, that would mean about half the liquor outlets in Ontario were privately run. And people might start to notice the bizarre inconsistencies: why can the Walmart on Bayfield Street in Barrie sell only beer, and only in six packs, while the Walmart on Hays Boulevard in Oakville can sell beer and wine, and meanwhile Hope’s Foodland in Novar, Mac’s Milk in Craigleith, Redden’s campground in Longbow Lake and Lac des Mille Lacs Bait and Tackle in Upsala can sell beer, wine and hard liquor — and smokes and fireworks and beef jerky and bread and eggs? Why can scores of convenience stores sell everything alcoholic as agency stores, but other convenience stores aren’t even eligible to apply for the new wine and beer licences?

April 27, 2017

“Richard Florida has a new book [that] advises cities on what to do about problems that result from advice he gave them in his previous books”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley hits this one out of the ballpark:

Gadabout urbanist Richard Florida has a new book: The New Urban Crisis. It advises cities on what to do about problems that result from advice he gave them in his previous books, notably The Rise of the Creative Class. Stuff your downtown core full of creative types and you shall prosper, the University of Toronto professor advised, and many cities listened. Now some face a “crisis of their own success,” he told a Toronto breakfast crowd at the Urban Land Institute’s Electric Cities Symposium: the blue-collar types who make the creative class’s artisanal baked goods and mind their children have been “pushed” ever further into the suburbs. Economic and geographic inequality results, and Rob Ford/Donald Trump/Brexit-style resentment can build.

Florida’s many critics have long warned this was a flaw in his vision. But now Florida says he finds it “terrifying,” so he’s off on another book tour.

If I sound a bit peevish, it’s because I find him rather insufferable. Critics have poked holes in much of his research, but much more of it strikes me as overly complex analysis and measurement of fairly basic, intuitive phenomena that are common to dynamic and not-so-dynamic cities. While the remarkable urban revivals in recent decades in New York and Pittsburgh, and nascent ones in Detroit and Newark, are all very interesting, I’ve never understood what they have to teach us about Canadian cities. Their cores never “hollowed out” in the first place, necessitating wholesale renewal. When I listen to Florida talk, I hear Lyle Lanley trying to sell Springfield a monorail.

In any event, his prescriptions for the GTA are not exactly visionary: more transit, more affordable housing, densification over NIMBYism and more decision-making autonomy for cities. “The key today is shifting power from provinces to cities,” Florida writes in a Canadian-focused paper linked to the new book. That made it all the more galling to watch his post-speech “fireside chat” with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose tires he pumped well beyond their recommended PSI.

“You know this. It’s in your blood,” Florida gushed of her urbanist bona fides.

Well, let’s see. Wynne can certainly claim to have committed many billions in taxpayer money to transit projects. But if there were awards for NIMBYism, Wynne would have one for the nine-figure cancellation of two unpopular gas-fired power plants, during an election campaign of which she was co-chair; and perhaps another for her party’s shameless politicking on transit in Scarborough.

April 17, 2017

QotD: The dubious “value add” of the LCBO

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The liquor board’s cocktail recipe of the month, offered on its website, is for “gin and lemonade,” which you make with a shot of gin and some lemonade. The gin is cherry, so there’s that. Its three recommended beers of the month are themed for the hockey playoffs. They are — I am not kidding — Molson Canadian in a bottle, Molson Canadian in a can, and Molson Canadian in a larger can. The value the LCBO’s adding that a private retailer couldn’t is not obvious.

David Reevely, “LCBO union uses government’s rhetoric against it in brewing labour battle”, National Post, 2017-04-06.

April 14, 2017

Alberta’s new problem of “rising income support caseloads”

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

Colby Cosh sounds a warning note for Alberta’s NDP government:

… there is a danger — I say this with glum certainty that this centuries-old accepted truth will incite tantrums — in permitting the dole to grow too large. One need only look at the United States’s current addiction to federal and other disability programs. The U.S. reformed welfare as Alberta (and eventually Ontario) did, but disability schemes involving armies of doctors, lawyers and administrative judges became an equally huge species of para-welfare.

The result is a national orgy of prescription opioids and suicide, as policy inertia encourages millions to make a bad back or a trick knee the centre of an unproductive, isolated life. The bottle of OxyContin absolves and soothes; Donald Trump wins a presidential election.

I want no part of anything like this for Alberta. During my lifetime the province has been an economic colony, obsessed with competitiveness and quite short on the state’s version of “compassion.” We all knew we would get NDP economic policy when we voted NDP. They have un-flattened taxes, revived groovy ’70s industrial planning, taxed carbon, regulated farms, run planet-sized deficits, and sheltered the bureaucracy while businesses choked and private-sector workers struggled.

Only the very inattentive could have been unprepared for most of this, as a price to be paid for hosing out the Conservative stable, or even as a desirable correction. Welfare numbers signify a more fundamental, threatening change. It is one that the New Democrats may find more dangerous to its electoral future than all the rest put together, if Ontario history is any guide.

The growth in welfare rolls that can take place in a year may take 10 to reverse. And, of course, such growth suggests that other NDP nostrums, like hiking the minimum wage, aren’t working out. Why would anyone at all require state income support in labour’s paradise? Do NDPers need to look far to find a stalking, wrathful, hyperconservative Mike Harris figure in Alberta?

March 24, 2017

Kathleen Wynne … the Ontario Liberal Party’s saviour?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley tries to position Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as being the greatest asset of the Liberal Party:

The question of Kathleen Wynne’s future as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party made its way to the public airwaves this week in the form a panel discussion on TVO’s The Agenda. Host Steve Paikin asked former Liberal MP Greg Sorbara what advice he would offer the premier, and his response caused a bit of a stir.

“It is extremely unlikely that you’ll win the next election. The facts are the facts,” he said he would tell her. “I have not seen a party in the last year of its mandate turn (poll) numbers around when they are as bad as (the Liberals’) are.” And he noted the numbers are “particularly bad” for Wynne personally.

The latest Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll, released last week, had the Liberals at 22-per-cent support, 10 points behind the Tories. Forum Research last measured Wynne’s approval rating at 11 per cent, and her disapproval rating at 77 per cent. Just nine per cent said she would make the best premier of the three party leaders.

Okay, so where does Wynn come off as the Liberals’ best hope?

If Liberals are worried “it’s all over,” as Sorbara put it, I would submit it’s in large part because, on election day 2018, they’ll have been in power for 15 and a half not very impressive years. That’s the longest streak in Ontario in three decades. No party has managed it federally since St. Laurent took over from Mackenzie King.

Stuff builds up.

Stuff like, you know, Dalton McGuinty promising in writing not to raise taxes, then instituting a “health premium,” which he claimed wasn’t a tax, and then admitting under duress that it was a tax; like lottery retailers defrauding players to the tune of $100 million, and casinos managing to lose money; like allowing Ornge to spin out of control into corruption, mismanagement and overspending; like the electronic health records debacle; like turning a blind eye while native protesters illegally occupied Caledonia; like flushing a billion dollars or so down the john to cancel gas plants sooner than risk voters’ ire, then claiming there’s “no wrong time to make the right decision;” like various apparatchiks winding up arrested for little things like bribery and conspiring to delete government emails; like taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies that benefit from government largesse, shamelessly demanding cash for access to ministers, and only changing the rules when it finally became politically untenable; like a debt-to-GDP ratio that grew 40 per cent, from third-lowest among the provinces to fourth-highest; and like astronomical hydro bills born to a significant degree of bad political decisions.

All of that, and yet Wynne somehow managed to get a majority government last time around. Ontario’s masochistic voters clearly do deserve to get it, as Mencken said, “good and hard”.

The LCBO “phones in” their Ontario VIP selections

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

Michael Pinkus on the odd choices of wines to celebrate some Ontario wine luminaries:

Let’s be honest, the LCBO is lackadaisical, at best, when it comes to promoting Ontario wines, and they do it with such a blasé attitude it is embarrassing in the way they continue to absolutely fail the people of Ontario … let me explain and expand.

The main feature of the April 1, 2017 release is “Visionaries, Innovators and Pioneers” (VIP) – on a global scale – here you’ll see names you recognize and wineries that are household names (or one’s that should be) – people like Angelo Gaja (Italy), Ben Glaetzer (Australia), Ken Forrester (South Africa), Michel Chapoutier (France) and Nicolas Catena (Argentina) and for each they pair a wine to go along with them … I question the wine selection for these iconic wine luminaries, but what the hey, sometimes those iconic wines are sold out (icon wines do that) and you then have to go for secondary wines by those producers.

Then I reached the part with our local VIPs: Moray Tawse (true, a more recent member of the VIP club and in my opinion kind of an easy choice by the LCBO), even more lazy are the wines selected, far from what I would call his “iconic” ones; but that seems to be par-for-the-course in this release. Tawse makes single vineyard / single block wines that are “the bomb”, yet the LCBO chose a “Growers Blend” and a “Sketches” wine, seriously?

But the one that incensed me the most was Chateau des Charmes, not for the man they named, Paul Bosc Sr., who is a Visionary, Pioneer AND Innovator in Ontario, but the wine that was chosen to represent him: Cabernet Icewine? When I saw that, you could have knocked me over with a feather; what happened to Gamay Noir Droit? Single vineyard varietal offerings? Sparkling wine? Or even Equuleus? But instead of showing off these iconic / original table wines the LCBO goes for the easy layup of Icewine; which isn’t even what Bosc is known for (though he makes excellent versions of it), that honour should have gone to Inniskillin (Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser)

February 17, 2017

Industrial policy example – Kingston, Ontario

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Germany, Government, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren remembers when the government tampered with the free market to “save an industry” in Kingston:

Once upon a time, many years ago, I scrapped into one of these “no-brainer” political deals. The remains of the locomotive manufacturing business in Kingston, Ontario — whose century-old products I had glimpsed, still on the rails in India — were now on the block. A monster German corporation was offering to buy them, for the very purpose of competing, in Canada, with a (hugely subsidized, monopolist) Canadian corporation. The government stepped in, to “save” a Canadian industry, retroactively change the ground rules, and kick in more subsidies so that the Canadian monopolists, based in Montreal, could take over instead. This was accompanied by nationalist rhetoric, and Kingston was thrilled. Critics like me were unofficially deflected with bigoted anti-German blather held over from the last World War.

But I knew exactly what was going to happen. The local works, which would have been expanded by the foreign owner, were soon closed by the new Canadian owner, after studies had been commissioned to “prove” it was uneconomic. The latter’s last possible domestic competitor was thus snuffed out. The locals, whose lives had been for generations part of a proud Kingston enterprise, had been suckered. The politicians had told them it was little Canada versus big Germany. In reality, it was pretty little Kingston versus big ugly Montreal.

That is how the world works, with politics, so that whenever I hear of a big new national no-brainer scheme, my first thought is, which innocents are getting mooshed today?

December 19, 2016

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown and the “hidden agenda”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

During the entire time Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, the opposition and the media kept frightening people about Harper’s “hidden agenda” that he was bound to implement at any moment. For a decade. It worked well enough that right up until the Liberals won the last federal election, the term “hidden agenda” worked to gin up fears about the “real” Harper plan for Canada. If it was bad for Harper it’s going to be much, much worse for Ontario’s PC party and their flexible leader Patrick Brown:

Any Tory leader would have this problem. Any Tory leader who was ever thought of as a social conservative would have it worse. Brown might have it worst of all: having bent like a palm tree in the wind on social issues, it will be easier than usual for the Liberals, New Democrats and media to portray any moderate stance he takes on anything as nothing more than a politically expedient façade on some kind of hidden agenda. For those who might support such an agenda, meanwhile, his record is an invitation to stay home: whatever he or one of his MPPs might promise them isn’t worth the sound waves that conveyed it. They might reasonably conclude he has no agenda at all, hidden or otherwise.

Stephen Harper had considerable trouble with his purported “hidden agenda,” despite the gymnastics that were necessary to pin it on him. Brown having inhabited every position imaginable on a perfectly reasonable sex-ed curriculum, he cannot inspire much confidence in anyone, on any side of any truly contentious social issue, that his stated positions during campaigns would bear any resemblance to his actions as premier.

Perhaps the Liberals are finally unpopular enough that they’ll lose in 2018 no matter whom they’re up against; perhaps Ontarians will deem Brown’s apparent lack of principles an acceptable replacement for the Liberals’ long-demonstrated lack of principles. But if I were Kathleen Wynne, I’d be considerably more confident than my 16 per cent approval rating suggested I should be.

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