29 September 2006

Taxpayers, you're the chumps

Column -- If you had to guess the tax burden split between individuals and corporations, you might guess that corporations pay the most. That's because Corporate Canada is always whining about its tax load, which it claims is uncompetitive and sends jobs overseas. You'd be wrong. The chump is you, not the corporations. The public accounts show that the total corporate tax revenue is about 30% of the total personal tax revenue. In the early 1960s, it was 60%. The tax burden on the individual has, relatively speaking, doubled since your parents' generation. But this week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he's going to take care of you. He's swimming in surpluses - $13.2-billion for the 2005-06 fiscal year. That amount will be thrown at the federal debt. He also promised to cut your taxes. “We think the people of Canada are overtaxed,” he said. They may or may not be. What is absolutely certain, however, is that “the people” are wildly overtaxed compared with corporations. So will Flaherty balance the equation and not just give individuals lower tax rates, but lower their share of the total tax burden? Forget it. If anything, the pendulum is swinging even farther in corporations' favour. They will pay relatively less, you will pay relatively more. If it doesn't sound fair, it's because it isn't. But look what's happening. Every week the corporate tax bill, proportionately speaking, becomes slightly smaller and it's not just because corporate tax rates have fallen in recent years (they have).

It's because Canadian companies are turning into income trusts, which are structured to avoid paying tax, and because other companies are bought by foreigners and restructured to minimize the tax hit. Unitholders pay tax on the trusts' distributions, so tax is still being paid. But there's some “leakage” (blame the pension funds and the foreigners who own trust units). University of Toronto tax guru Jack Mintz estimates trust conversions are depriving federal and provincial governments of about $500-million a year in revenue. The figure is bound to rise as the trust wave swells. In 2000, the TSX was home to trusts worth $18B. Their collective value is now about $200B and rising rapidly. The tax losses from foreign takeovers are much harder to quantify. But the losses are certainly real. Generally speaking, a foreign owner loads its new Canadian subsidiary with debt. Since interest payments are tax deductible, tax bills can plunge. And foreign companies went on a hunting spree in Canada this year. If Flaherty really thinks the average Canadian is “overtaxed” he would restore the balance between individual and corporate tax payments.
(Globe and Mail 060928)

This is hardly a surprise to anyone. Corporations and government are fuck-buddies, while the rest of us get beat into submission. Have you seen the number of Income Trusts on the TSX these days? I wonder how much backbone the government has to close up these loopholes? Most likely none. I'd be very surprised if there is ever any movement on this. Further to Nat's discussion on institutionalized slavery, anyone that thinks the system is fair and just for any of those making less than a bazillion a year is very, very deluded. The capitalist economic/political model is getting more and more out of balance with every passing year. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. What happened with the idea of protecting the inputs into the system? Without them, the entire system falls into chaos - the base of the pyramid disappears and everything collapses. The corporations and governments are looking to rape you any chance they get (especially the car rental companies! Oh, and of course don't forget the banks), while trying to convince you that the status quo gives you, the individual, everything you could possibly need. How benevolent of them. Hey, wait a minute - they're lying to us!

28 September 2006

Another reason why I'm taking the train next time

You want to talk about a rip-off? How about renting a vehicle, and then on top of that, renting a vehicle at an airport? I understand that the airport authorities are notoriously bloodthirsty when it comes to grabbing income from whatever fees they can charge flyers, car rentals, taxi companies, whatever, but look at this flagrant highway robbery!

On our trip to the East Coast, Joe and I rented a minivan in Moncton that we were going to drive to PEI and Halifax. This was a SIX day rental from Sept. 11 - 17.

Our total bill: $732.84! That's a worse mark-up than the soulless airlines themselves!

Week rental - $357.00 (Okay, on the original quote this looked okay.)
Service charge - $120.00 (this is for the 'hassle' (big hassle, apparently) of dropping a rental vehicle off at a different location. Our rental vehicle had Nova Scotia plates to begin with, but I won't go into the implications of that here...)
Fuel & Service - $86.65 (I made the mistake of buying the pre-bought tank of gas here (something I normally don't do), at the big deal of 87 cents a liter. At the time, gas was $1.11 in Moncton so I was thinking this was a good deal. Having forgotten the deal with this, they charge you for the entire capacity of the fuel tank no matter how much is left in it. I have a hard time believing that this minivan has a 100L fuel tank, but at this point anything's possible. Lesson learned: always fill your rental gas tank yourself, always. And never rent a vehicle when you're hungover and don't want to bother reading the fine print.)
GST/PST (in good ol' New Brunswick = 14%) - $90.00 (Apparently charging tax on the fuel at this point is okay. Nothing like double-taxation - the govs do it all the time. Ninety fucking dollars.)
Other Addl Charges - $3.84 (whatever.)
Rate Adjustments - $70.61 (Apparently this is the Airport concession fee. Fucking ~10%? You've got to be kidding me. A complete sham.)
Other Addl Charges - $4.74 (just get me over the barrel and get it over with already.)

So there you go. If we had picked up the minivan at any other location in Moncton, I would have avoided $70+ in charges, and if I had filled the minivan proper in Halifax before hitting the airport (it was well under $1.00 per liter by that time), probably another $30 there.

I ended up paying $122.14 per day on this vehicle, plus approximately an additional $10 a day in additional gas during the trip.

Jeff, you say I don't pay my fair share for the privilege of driving a car? Well, here's evidence that I am capable of paying two month's worth of lease payments on a new vehicle for the privilege of driving one for just over six days. Good for me!

Hummm....I don't think I'm going to comment on this one.

GM exec: We need more new Hummers
With sales up, brand needs broader portfolio of products, says GM VP at Paris Hummer dealer.
September 28 2006: 12:45 PM EDT

Paris (Reuters) -- General Motors Corp.'s Hummer brand needs to double its product line-up by adding two or three more models, the executive charged with GM's product planning told reporters on Wednesday.

"Hummer needs some more products. It needs two or three more products to give it sufficient market coverage," General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters at the opening of a Hummer dealership in Paris.

Lutz said making a Hummer-branded pickup truck, which would have ample passenger seating, remained an "option."

Earlier this year GM faced pressure from activist investor Kirk Kerkorian to consider spinning off Hummer, which began as a high-mobility vehicle produced for the U.S. military.

But GM executives have argued that the brand is central to the automaker's strategy as it moves to cut costs, shore up market share and return to profitability in the U.S. market.

Sales of Hummer were up almost 50 percent in the first 8 months of this year. By contrast, GM's overall sales were down 12 percent.

Hummer currently has thre models: the H2, H2 SUT and H3. GM announced earlier this year it is stopping production of the original H1 Hummer, which was larger than the full-size H2.

The H2 SUT has short pick-up-style truck bed.

The H3, which is built on GM's midsize pickup truck platform, accounts for about three-quarters of the brand's current sales. It is similar in size to a Nissan Pathfinder or Toyota 4Runner and is powered by a 5-cylinder engine.

GM executives have said previously that a smaller vehicle, similar in size to a Jeep Wrangler, is being considered for the brand.

Hummer, which GM bought in 1999, has acquired both fervent fans like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and outspoken critics who see the heavy SUVs as a symbol of American consumer excess and dependence on foreign oil.

Damn those vestigial organs!

My dad's in surgery at the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg this morning for a prostatectomy. If all goes well, he should be released and heading back home next week sometime. I'm anxiously awaiting news from Mom on his condition and how the surgery went. I am expecting everything to go routinely and that Dad will be back to his old self again in a month or so.

I've decided to head back to Manitoba over the Thanksgiving long weekend, leaving on the 6th and returning on the 9th. In addition to seeing Dad, the family of my cousin Tannis is having a 40th b-day party/barn dance for her on the 7th and I've been told most of my family will be home that weekend for it. I figured it would be a more opportune time to catch everyone in one spot than Christmas will be, so I'm going to travel while the weather is good and stay in Calgary for Christmas with Joe.

27 September 2006

The Construction Season of our Discontent?

Murphy's Law of Calgary Traffic: 'The shortest distance between two points is under construction.'

I watched off the balcony last night as the demolition team started to dismantle the historic Mescalero/Underwood Block on 1st street, the beginning of the work to build the double tower condo complex of Union Square. The end of another era.....

I've heard that Batistella ran into financing problems for Union Square and now that the construction start is a year behind schedule, they're most likely fast-tracking this one and working late nights despite fines from the City for breaking noise by-laws.

Everywhere around us at all times of the day, there are construction teams building towers, towers, and more towers. The subfloors of the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre are done and the infrastructure is beginning to go up (there are two huge cranes that fly over 4th street occasionally), and the Millenium Towers project and the other one across the street (name escapes me now) from each other are both underway. Traffic and pedestrian woes will surely ensue. The ugly parkade at 9th ave. and 2nd st. is now history and the building of Banker's Court is now underway. The re-vamped building across 1st st. from the Palliser is halfway done as is the new tower on Penny Lane and the new Court Complex on 5th st. is nearly complete.

The first quarter of 2006 saw over $1 billion dollars in commercial real estate transactions. That’s $1 billion in three months. And that is only counting those properties that sold for $1 million or more.

There are currently plans for nine new skyscrapers in the core, including Banker’s Court, City Centre, Centennial Place, Livingston Place and of course, the much-hyped tower planned by the Encana Corporation. Altogether these new buildings will hopefully add five million sq. ft. of office space by 2010.

There is word that a double tower (City Centre) will soon be underway underneath Calgary Tower and the new EnCana Tower (which will be the tallest skyscraper in Western Canada, second tallest in the country) is due to start in 2007 between 5th and 7th Ave. downtown. The IBM complex on 11th Ave. is underway and the revamped office building at the corner of 5th St and 11th Ave SW is nearly done. This is just what is happening in my neighborhood.

This has certainly been a nutty building season in Calgary. It's hard to fathom the volume of construction that is going on. The signs of boom insanity are everywhere. I hope that things keep rolling along here economically as everyone expects for awhile yet otherwise we're going to end up in the same horrible mess the city was in the early 1980s. It's pretty neat to be witness to all this newness if you can survive the noise, traffic crunch and skyrocketing prices for everything.

The city is always playing catchup to its stellar growth. With a hundred people moving to Calgary everyday, many projects are either getting fast-tracked or mothballed due to the pressure on building materials and skilled workers. Things change from day-to-day.

Hopefully this all equates to more dense living in the downtown core. I'd like to stay focused on the good benefits of this - more people, more businesses, more amenities, however with all the good comes the bad. The homelessness problem is getting very bad downtown, and the fact the heated economy is leaving many new arrivals without living accommodations is very frustrating. There have been a few ingenious ways to combat this problem that have started. One example in the Best Western Hotel in southeast Calgary, which is allowing new staff to rent rooms in the hotel until they can find something more permanent. Both residential and commercial vacancy rates in the inner city are under one percent!

From 2006-09-29 Calgary Herald:

Office rates hit $50 a square foot

A dire lack of supply combined with a burgeoning demand for downtown office space has pushed asking rental rates to unprecedented levels in Calgary. The average lease price has hit $35 to $37 a square foot, a whopping $12 increase from a year ago and more than 50%, with some landlords asking for the previously unheard of $50 level for certain prime locations. Downtown is becoming so pricey that some companies are choosing to move their operations outside of the core into the suburban office market. A downtown market report by Barclay Street Real Estate says the downtown office market vacancy rate is at 0.4%, the lowest in the world, and has created "continued upward pressure on rental rates and limited to zero options for those companies with immediate office space requirements." The report says four new buildings totalling about 1.1 million square feet of office space are set to be completed in 2007 but 100% of this office space has already been pre-leased and about 650,000 square feet of new space is anticipated for delivery in 2008 with that also 100% pre-leased. "Simply stated, those companies requiring office space immediately or through to 2009 will be paying a considerable premium due to demand significantly outpacing supply," says the report.

Lea Chambers, manager of corporate services and marketing for Golder Associates, said the company will move from its current location downtown to a new building at Memorial Drive and Barlow Trail in the fall of 2008. The company has been in its current building for 10 years. "Our reason for moving or seeking a new space is capacity. We project our staff will be growing by 10 to 15% in the next two years and we simply cannot stay in this building because there is not enough room for all of our staff," said Chambers. Christopher Ridabock, president of J.J. Barnicke Calgary, said it has been Calgary's tradition for oil and gas tenants to be in the downtown, but "this is changing with tenants moving to the Beltline and beyond." "The greater Calgary office market continues its downward slide in vacancy and its ramping up of rental rates," said Ridabock. "With the downtown core now at a North American record low for availability . . . asking rates for any space has increased dramatically, with some landlords asking over $50 net for smaller office blocks in top buildings.
(Calgary Herald 060929)

25 September 2006

Jesus Camp

New movie information here.

22 September 2006

What's up?

This week has been sorta nuts. I guess that's what happens when you disappear from your obligations for two weeks. Work has been a flurry of catch-up while trying to get over the jet lag thing. I've realized since this has been the longest vacation I've been on in years and with the three hour time difference on the east coast how long it takes to recover and get back to a sense of normalcy. Even three hours has made a huge difference. I never feel this way after a week away, I guess somewhere in between one and two weeks is my tipping point. If you need testament on how brain-dead I've been this week, look at how I spoiled the surprise party! I also inadvertently sorta kinda forgot that yesterday was Joe and my sixth anniversary, but I had had my shift at the casino booked for several months now and I think we're going to do the anniversary dinner thing on Saturday night. Joe had booked off Saturday in anticipation of a housecooling party at Shawn and Jeanette's but that's not happening now so I guess we have the evening free to do our own thing.

Wednesday night was an organizational meeting for the Calgary 2007 running event, last night was my shift for the CBTL casino function at Deerfoot Inn casino. Tonight is Kirsten's b-day party, and tomorrow we are invited to dinner at Jeff's house with Jon and Sara, although I think Joe and I are going to do anniversary dinner. Next Tuesday is a meeting with Jacqui Saunders at Peter and Paul's house to go over some of the details of organizing the running race. Jacqui is the main organizer of the Calgary Marathon every year, so her input will be most helpful. I'm also in first aid courses all that day sponsored by my company. I get to learn how to use a defibrillator! Cool! Thursday is a Western Cup meeting as well as the CBTL AGM, Friday is Joe's birthday as well as a Synergy Exec meeting. Saturday is the rescheduled day for Hammerfest and Marowshka's party. Sunday is the Bow School of Cross race at SAIT, which I'll either show up to watch or commissaire. Busy, busy.

21 September 2006

Basement Jaxx - Take Me Back to Your House

My new fave song!

Who would've thunk Kossack dancers would ever be used in a music video? Trust the Jaxx to do something crazy! BK - they call the sound of this song "Banjo House", go figure. The dancing bear costumes, a man inside a balalaika and Martina Sorbara (whose dad is the Ontario Finance Minister) laughing while hanging off of the horse are worth the price of admission.

Here's the link to the dancing waiters version of the 'Hush Boy' video, the first single from "Crazy Itch Radio".

Why that morning coffee is so important

On Monday, I got an email from a friend who is planning a surprise 40th birthday party for his partner. He had asked me to send an email out to all of our common friends to let them know about it and put it into their calendars for the last weekend in October.

Yesterday morning before going to get my de-groggifying coffee, I had gotten a response from another friend on the send-out list who needed some information. He also pointed out that one of the emails on the list was out-of-date for another friend who had recently moved to Vancouver and wondered if I knew his new address.

Since the person we are planning the party for is the manager of our running group's email distribution list, I figured that he MUST know the new email address. So what did I do? Without a thought, I cc'ed him on the reply to the other friend's email inquiry. As soon as I had hit the 'Send' button, I knew what I had done. Fuck! What an idiot I am! I made a few futile efforts to recall the email but it was too late. Now I will be known as the one who spoiled the surprise! Embarrassed, I called the friend and told him to delete the email before reading it. But knowing him well enough I know that he will read it. Boy, am I a tool. Fortunately, I know that even if he knows the truth he will go along with the charade to the end. Maybe the egg on my face will only be partially scrambled.

20 September 2006

I'm The Slime

by Frank Zappa

(Frank would have a field day were he alive today)

I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed n' deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out
From your tv set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That's right, folks..
Dont touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livingroom floor

I am the slime from your video
Cant stop the slime, people, look at me go

18 September 2006

Noah in 2006

In the year 2006, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

"Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision. Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it. Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go! When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space. Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew. Immigration and Naturalization is checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience. To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord.
"The government beat me to it."

17 September 2006


Friday afternoon we left Borden bound for Halifax. We stopped in Oxford for food and arrived just before 5pm, just in time for rush hour. We made a quick reservation at the Westin Nova Scotian at an internet cafe before settling in. We headed out for dinner at Argyle's Pub then returned to the hotel for a break before heading to Reflections. There were three house DJs playing and the place got pretty busy, however I found out later that it is more gay on Saturdays, not that straight people or drug dealers are a bad thing! They served $2 beer until 1pm, so Joe and I essentially had a drinking race. Welcome to Halifax! We stumbled out at 3am and picked up falafels and shawarmas for a pigout feast back at the hotel.

Saturday morning I woke up and headed out for a run. I ran through Point Pleasant Park. It was devastated by Hurricane Juan in 2005 and a lot of the old trees are missing in certain sections of the park. I checked out the Prince of Wales Tower, the Batteries, and ran along the Northwest Arm before heading back into the city, running along Young St., Inglis St., Tower Rd, and the Public Garden along South St. to the Citadel. I climbed up the hill to the top and toured the Fortress for a bit before heading back down to the Harbourfront. I toured around a bit and oddly ran into Stephen Terauds and his boyfriend Scott on the walkway, who I knew from when they used to live in Calgary. We talked for awhile before parting ways.

View from Point Pleasant

Prince of Wales Tower, Point Pleasant Park - built from 1796-99

Anchor of the HMCS Bonaventure, Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier to 1970

In front of the Point Pleasant Batteries - originally built in the 1790s

Tower Road streetscape

The Halifax Citadel was originally built in 1746 however the present fortress was built in 1856

View from the Citadel

The Old Town Clock, built in 1803

I went back to the hotel to clean up and get Joe and we headed out to eat. We ate at McKelvie's where we ran into Jason Desrochers who Joe went to high school with in Summerside. They discovered that Jason had also just recently moved to Halifax from Calgary and he had worked at the restaurant where Joe is presently working! Small, weird world.

We toured the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (highly recommended) and the C.S.S. Acadia before walking the Harbourwalk again, grabbing some ice cream and rum cake, checking out the Garrison Brewery and Pier 21 before heading back to the hotel.

Argyle Street

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Aboard the C.S.S. Acadia

View of Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour

We were exhausted and decided to hang out in the hotel room for the remainder of the evening. We had a 6am departure from Halifax International and I still had to deal with the chore of getting the bike box checked in. Despite some computer glitches on the jet in Halifax and circling Pearson while the fog cleared, we made it back to Calgary, no worse for wear (except for the busted jar of Joe's mom's jam in our clothing bag - yuck) in the early afternoon on Sunday.

It was a fantastic trip - lots of great scenery and activities. I really like the East Coast. North Cape and Hopewell Rocks were especially fascinating and I really took a shine to Halifax. At the Track Nationals the CCA announced that they are going to do ALL of the National Championships (except for Cyclocross) at the same time in late June/early July in Bromont, QC. We are already planning to go and drive out to PEI and Halifax again! I can't wait!

Reality hit me over the head this morning like a sack of rocks as I headed into work and went back to doing what I was doing before I left. Sigh....if only we could vacation more than we work....

15 September 2006

Prince Edward Island

PEI is a very beautiful, rural, rustic place. I was likening it to a 'Western Manitoba by the sea'. After driving over the incredible Confederation Bridge to Borden, we rested our hungover heads and headed into Summerside to catch up with some of Joe's old friends.

Tuesday morning I got up for a run in rural Borden to Seven Mile Bay. When I got back, we got ready and headed to Charlottetown. We walked the harbour, toured downtown and ate genuine seafood chowder and PEI potatoes at a pub. We toured St. Dunstan's Basilica, Province House, Ardgowan House and UPEI before heading to the beaches of the North Shore.

Province House, the birthplace of Confederation


Brackley Beach, North Shore

Cavendish Beach, North Shore

North Rustico, PEI

We returned to Summerside via Kensington and toured CFB Summerside, which has now been converted to a hotel and restaurant complex called Slemon Park. Joe's very good friend Michelle works there and showed us around.

On Wednesday, we headed to North Cape, the northwesternmost point of the Island. After stopping in Alberton for food, we drove the scenic route along the coast, admiring the tiny fishing villages and secluded beaches. North Cape is beautiful. When the tide goes out it heads in two directions since the cape is where the Northumberland Strait and Gulf of St. Lawrence meet. It is a desolate, yet beautiful place. The government of PEI has set up an impressive wind generation farm there which adds a good chunk of electricity to the grid. We got to see a lot of seals hanging out in the shallows along the western cliffs.

North Cape - where Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence meet

North Cape

Windmill Farm at North Cape

We headed back to Summerside via Tignish and visited Joe's grandma and toured the city.

Thursday I went for another run. Part of it was along the Confederation Trail. Several years ago the government decided to lift all of the railbeds on the Island and converted the entire system to a bikeway. It's pretty cool and I'd like to tour the Island that way someday. On my way back I went down to Carleton Beach and took some great pics of Confederation Bridge while the tide was out.

In the afternoon, Joe and I headed into Summerside to do some errands and then checked out some old haunts of his - Chelton Beach, Sea Cow Head, and McCallum's Point. This was supposed to be our beach day, however it ended up being the coolest and windiest day we experienced on our trip. Fortunately, we never saw any rain the entire time we were in the Maritimes, but I never got to have my book day on the beach in PEI I was hoping for!

Confederation Bridge

Joe at Chelton Beach

Sea Cow Head, near Summerside

Joe told me they used to jump off the rocks at Sea Cow Head when they were kids. I think they must have been pretty retarded.

In the evening, we went back to Slemon Park where there was a karaoke night. We stuck around there for awhile and then headed into Summerside with Michelle and Katherine to the Heritage Pub, which was pretty dead. We shut the place down anyways.

11 September 2006

Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy

On Monday, Joe and I headed to Hopewell Rocks along the Bay of Fundy, approximately a half hour drive south of Moncton. This is a very cool spot where the tides rise 14 meters every day and have worn out the sandstone rock faces in bizarre formations. The bigger rocks will last a couple of centuries before the erosion actions finally bring them down. The rate at which the tides come in is very fierce. We walked from one end of the flats, through the rocks and further down the beach. We looked behind us and saw the Bay water covering up the spot we had been walking over only five minutes before.

The tide is out...

Hopewell Rocks, NB

Flowerpot Rocks

The tide is coming in...only 14 meters to go!

We headed back to Moncton, did some quick shopping and started are trek to Joe's mom's place in Borden-Carleton, PEI.

10 September 2006

Canadian Track Nationals, Dieppe, NB

Track Nationals were a blast. Despite surviving a horrific head cold during the event, it was a lot of fun and great to catch up with a lot of the racers I hadn't seen in a long time and getting to know some of the others better! We stayed in a hotel in Moncton with Steph and Natasha and drove to Dieppe every morning.

"Trackies Village"

Friday morning was very dewy and led to slow pursuit times on the track. I ended up 8th overall with a time of 5:08.

Could I look more devastated? Courtesy Don Ricker for Smugmug

Points Race final

The points race was a "pain train" (as Tanya Dubnicoff called it). It was fast and furious. I made it through the qualifying 20km race unscathed, but I got lapped about 50 laps in and decided to pull out of the 40km final since I couldn't breathe anymore. The scratch race on Saturday went much better. I won the qualifying 15km race, and ended up 12th in the 30km final.

Points Race action

I'd like to congratulate Steph (bronze in sprints), Natasha (bronze in women's points race) and Felix (silver in the kilo) for their awesome efforts!

The Sunday night closing party was quite interesting to experience. It was weird to see all these elite athletes completely lose their marbles at the Pump House Pub and Cosmos Nightclub in Moncton. Everyone went WAY overboard - let's just say Mike McKorkell won the ketchup eating contest before the salt sniffing contest started. I guess they don't get out much.

05 September 2006

Catching up on things

Yeah, I know it's been awhile -- Here are pictures from my trip to Red Deer on the Labour Day long weekend to see my parents...this seems so long ago already!

The new house

Tres Generaciones

01 September 2006

Slow news day

US plans tougher inspections at border

Calling Canada a potential conduit for bioterrorism, pests and disease, the US government is boosting its northern border inspection muscle - and making Canadian air travellers and commercial shippers foot the bill. In what it calls an “emergency action,” the US Department of Agriculture has served notice it will levy a per-trip surcharge on all air travellers and commercial cargo shippers from Canada, starting Nov. 24. The US entry fee will range from US$5 per air passenger to $488 per maritime vessel, with trucks paying $5.25 per crossing and railways $7.50 per car. The estimated $77-million raised annually will fund a much-expanded agriculture inspector program to screen air travellers and commercial rail, truck, water and plane shipments for pests and biohazards. Visitors to the US should expect tougher scrutiny from inspectors looking for prohibited birds, animals, fruit and vegetables. “The US/Canada border . . . is the longest undefended border in the world,” the USDA said in a late-August announcement in the Federal Register. “Our current dearth of inspection activity at that border could potentially leave the United States vulnerable to bioterrorism.” Canadian airlines warned yesterday that the new surcharge will discourage US-bound air travel, and business groups said they're worried the unexpected move could mean more border traffic snarls that undermine two-way commerce.

International Trade Minister David Emerson said yesterday that Washington alerted him to the measure about two weeks ago, adding he plans to keep talking with the US to forestall any impact on cross-border business. The USDA says records show Canada is an increasing threat when it comes to unwanted plant pests entering the US, particularly from third-country products relabelled as Canadian and then exported in US-bound shipments. Unlike other countries, Canada has until now enjoyed an exemption from US border inspections of domestically grown fruit and vegetables as well as the user fees assessed to pay for the checks. Trade lawyer Larry Herman said the planned changes appear to breach NAFTA. “Border inspections for health, safety and other reasons can be one of the most aggressive uses of protectionism,” said Herman of Cassels Brock. Fred Gaspar, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association of Canada, called the passenger levy “another nail in the coffin” for plane travel. The Canadian Trucking Alliance said it is worried about the impact of more inspections. “The hope is the USDA will recognize they cannot start to create bottlenecks at the border,” said svp Graham Cooper. Shirley-Ann George of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called the levy and increased inspections one more inhibitor to cross-border trade and a duplication of existing prohibitions against smuggling. “At some point, there is a straw that breaks the camel's back,” she said.
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The Americans can believe whatever they want about Canada, but I implore Canada's political, business and cultural decision-makers to work as hard as they can to lower Canada's economic and cultural dependency on the United States as quickly as possible. Things are growing more and more divisive between the two countries and Canada should look elsewhere for more lucrative opportunities. If in their delusional and paranoid thinking they think we're such a big threat, we'll go and do things elsewhere with other people.

Warning signs in West, TD says: Retreat possible

There are "warning" signs of housing bubbles in some western Canadian cities, especially Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, a report by TD Bank said yesterday. There will likely be a significant softening of unsustainable prices in those cities, and possibly even a retreat, the bank said in its city-by-city analysis of the housing market. But the bank also said housing prices in most parts of Canada never reached the bubble stage that they did in US cities, and as such should not go from boom to bust as is happening there. Canadian housing markets have been booming in recent years with extremely high starts, sales and price gains in many markets, but have generally lacked the degree of speculation that dominated past boom-bust cycles, it said. And the excesses here have been far less than those in the US However, a few western cities are "clearly flashing warning lights," the bank cautioned. "There is no question that the recent dramatic price gains in Calgary and Vancouver are unsustainable and that these urban centres are vulnerable to significant moderation, including the possibility of a pullback in prices at some point in the future," it warned. "Edmonton is also experiencing explosive price growth, but affordability remains high. In contrast, the other major Canadian real estate markets appear to be in much more balanced shape and housing activity in central and Atlantic Canada has already cooled without prompting a price correction - supporting the view that a bubble never formed in these regions." National home sales fell 3.1% in July to 39,319, the Canadian Real Estate Association said. Sales fell in all provinces other than Nova Scotia and PEI.
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My only hope for being a homeowner in Calgary over the next five years is if I can prey on the misery of others. What a great feeling that is.