Feb 022006

One thing I neglected to mention in my Oh Canada post about Harper, was his plans for Arctic defense. This would include three heavy-duty, armed icebreakers as well as a new port for them near Iqualuit. Harper would also bring back the Airborne unit (but hopefully not its troubled history), as it would be critical to being able to quickly deploy troops to the Arctic.

This touched off a nerve with U.S. ambassador David Wilkins, declaring that Americans don’t recognize Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage. This in turn lead to Harper saying he doesn’t take orders on sovereignty from the U.S. ambassador, and that he will stick with his plan to station armed icebreakers, remote-controlled aerial drones and troops in the area (story here).

Why the need for so much posturing over a bit of ice? Times are changing, especially temperatures over the last 30 years in the Arctic. As a result of global warming, Arctic ice coverage has declined by 25 percent, and is 32 percent thinner. The U.S. Navy predicts that the Northwest Passage will be open to non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least one month each summer. So what? Well, The Tyee has a great article: The Need to Defend Our New Northwest Passage

The changing ice conditions offer a sea route between Europe and Asia that is 7,000 kilometres shorter than the route through the Panama Canal. The Northwest Passage could also accommodate supertankers and container ships that are too large for the canal. International shipping companies are eyeing the fuel, time and canal-passage fees that could be saved; some are already building ice-strengthened vessels.

The cruise ship industry is also looking north; the Kapitan Khlebnikovi, a Russian-flagged converted ice-breaker, already offers luxury voyages through the Northwest Passage-at US $10,000 per person. The melting ice will facilitate access to Alaskan and northern Canada’s vast stocks of oil, gas, diamonds and precious metals.

Also, Canada’s Arctic waters could eventually become a valuable fishery as reduced ice cover and warmer waters enable plankton and fish species from more temperate latitudes to move north. Indeed, Pacific salmon and Atlantic cod are already invading Arctic waters, with likely dire consequences for smaller, slower-growing indigenous species.

Canadians should be alarmed. An international shipping route along Canada’s third coast could facilitate the entry of drugs, guns, illegal immigrants and perhaps even terrorists into this country, as well as providing an alternative route for illicit shipments of weapons of mass destruction or missile components by rogue states. And any shipping involves the risk of accidents, particularly in remote and icy waters. An oil spill would cause catastrophic damage to fragile Arctic ecosystems; a cruise ship in distress would require an expensive and possibly dangerous rescue mission. Any new fishery will be highly susceptible to over-exploitation, particularly because of the difficult-to-police location, rapid declines in fish stocks elsewhere and the consequent, excess fishing capacity that now exists worldwide.

Ideally, these challenges would be addressed by applying the full range of Canada’s own environmental, immigration, customs and criminal laws. Sovereignty over the Northwest Passage is about much more than nationalism; it is about protecting people and the environment from serious potential harm. Yet, Canadians could soon lose any ability to regulate foreign vessels in the passage, since any foreign ship that passes through without our permission undermines the sovereignty claim.

Check it out, it is a really interesting read.

Jan 242006

Interesting things are happening up north. Harper & the conservatives ousted the liberals from power. Harper is now the PM, and Martin has stepped down. I thought Martin was doing a decent job, but his party has had a good run of corruption and arrogance, so they all paid the price.

– As a fiscal conservative, the first thing on Harper’s agenda is a reduction of the GST (national goods & services tax) from 7% to 5%. Not a horrible thing really, as Canada has been bringing in a consistent surplus. But, the govt still carries a significant amount of debt. Personally I would have preferred to leave it at 7%, and keep paying that down, or divert those funds to healthcare.

– Harper’s Federal Accountability Act looks good, attempting to cut down on financing and lobbying in Ottawa.

– Harper is not known for being progressive towards green technologies or green legislation.

– Harper promises to improve relations with the US. While good relations with a neighbor is always a nice thing, the US has recently required a hell of a lot of kowtowing for the ‘privilege’ of relations. It is not hard to see that one always needs to keep Canada’s sovereignty in mind when dealing with the south.

– Harper’s campaign director Tom Flanagan, has some interesting views on Canada’s First Nations people. He argues that the only sensible native policy was outright assimilation. Harper has yet to respond to an urgent open letter demanding to know if he shares Flanagan’s views.

– Stockwell Day would probably become Foreign Affairs Minister. Day is a fundamentalist, and has given Israel carte blanche in the past. “He had expressed the view that we should place child abusers in the general prison population so that those prisoners could summarily execute the abuser. He was also proud of the fact that he made a point of being one of the first customers at holocaust denier Jim Keegstra�s new garage after he was convicted of hate crimes.” Ah yes, what a sweetheart. Doesn’t this guy sound like a great Foreign Affairs Minister?

– Harper & co were/are pro-war. It is strange to me that both Harper and Day were for going to Iraq, not so much on the disarm Saddam meme that was so popular at that moment, but more towards ‘loyalty’ towards the US and the UK. In other words, how much lumber is a war on false pretenses worth?

– Harper claims to be not pushing a conservative social agenda. However, he wants to reverse last year’s law legalizing gay marriage. I’m sure there are many more things in his plans, but it remains to be seen how much power he will have to make any changes.

Harper could be bad, or good for Canada. It depends on what support he is given from the rest of the government. As the leader of a minority government, he is going to have to do a lot of persuading to get things through parliament. I wish him all the best on the Accountability Act, but I would hope that Canada does not move backwards in other areas.

Dec 222005

(This is an older post that I never got around to publishing)

I certainly can’t fault Jim Kunstler’s view of recent development in Calgary“..archetypal city of immense glass boxes in a sterilized center surrounded by an asteroid belt of beige residential subdivisions.”

It is sadly, very true. The last 15 years of Calgary growth have been all sprawl and generic suburbs. I moved to Calgary in 1996. Our house (once rented, now Colan owns) was not far from downtown, only about a 10 minute drive, or 20 minute bus & train ride. To the east and north of our house there were several farmer’s fields. Full of hay, horses, and gophers. Only the gophers are left. Ten years later, the house is surrounded by big box suburban malls and business parks. Chili’s, BestBuy, and every other store you find in every other suburb in North America.

The growth further away was even more dramatic. Hour long commutes from the south or north ends of Calgary are no longer uncommon. We used to joke that the new McMansions looked like a landfill – the same 3 house colors, and no trees. Turns out they still look like crap, but now traffic is worse.

Jul 192005

This post should show up as I am in the air. As Anna marked on her calendar, we will be “Visiting Far Away Canada” for the next two weeks. Our first stop is in Calgary, then on to Williams Lake to meet up with my Mom’s side of the familly, then a bit at our cabin on Francois Lake. I will be in remote locations for most of the trip, so there won’t be much noise from me for a couple weeks.

Feb 242005

Looking at my visited countries map:

It would seem I need to get my ass off this continent for my next travels. However with Chicago, NYC, and Williams Lake lined up, I don’t see that happening soon.

I am going to spend a week or two in Williams Lake with family, and hopefully have enough time to head up to my family’s cabin on Francois Lake. In the 40’s and 50’s my grandfather ran a hunting & fishing lodge, catering mostly to wealthy americans (interestingly enough, my other grandparents also depended on american tourists – they ran a cafe/truck stop/tackle shop). It was not an easy or consistent way to make a living. My grandfather eventually joined the forest service and they moved to the coast. He loved the cabin and wanted to retire there. Sadly a stroke and MS crippled his body, he was unable to make it up to the cabin in the later years of his life.

I grew up living not far from the cabin, so we tried to spend a few weeks of the year there. The community that existed around the lake when my father was a boy had long since vanished. The lake now is mostly german vacation homes and some ranches. But there are a few full-timers hanging on. I still love the cabin. The wilds and rotten buildings were the perfect place for a kid, and I was fascinated by the tiny traces of history I would find. Islands, old signs, papers, and bits of life were treasures waiting to be found. Considering my fascination, it is surprising I didn’t go into archeology or join the forrest service. Funny how things work out.

I posted some older photos of the cabin here.

Aug 222004

Watched The Blair Shark Project last night. I want my money back. The website screams BASED ON A TRUE STORY, but 99% of the film is just someone’s imagination.

I woke up early this morning, so I walked over to the community garden. I really like mornings. The stillness and freshness. I would be a morning person, if I could also be a night person.

The garden is looking good. Starting to see some green coming up. I finally posted the first pictures of it, click the picture to see them:

I also posted some photos of my trip up to Calgary to see the family. Click the picture to see them:

Jul 282003

I have been slacking and not updating this page. We went to Montreal and then a week later, to Calgary. Both were a good time. I have pictures, I just need to caption and post them. Update: Montreal photos, Calgary photos.

Two weekends ago Anna, Bart, and I set up 4 of the 5 layers of the geodesic dome. We did pretty well considering we figured it out as we went along. It is huge, and should be a lot of fun for burning man. Dome tryout photos here.

Last weekend Bart gave us tickets to a boat party (3 story boat with 2 djs). The boat went around the harbor for a few hours, it was pretty fun. Downtown always looks impressive from the water. Boat party photos here.

This weekend Danno came down and we hung out. We went snorkeling with the sharks on Saturday, and then the cove on Sunday.