Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Rising Gas Prices Anger Consumers

Living in the heart of oil country, people are often baffled when prices go up at the gas pumps, and I count myself in that demographic.  However, with all the complaining people do, they seem to believe it is up to Big Oil to fix the “problem” (after all, they’re just after more money right, so why not gouge the consumer?) rather than taking personal action.  No, I’m not talking about protesting, fire-bombing X Co’s corporate headquarters, or some (other) form of domestic terrorism.  Rather I am talking about behaviour modification.  I know this is a difficult concept, so I will repeat it: behaviour modification.

WTF!?

I know, I know.  Behaviour modification can be difficult (though it doesn’t need to be), and besides, that “other guy” is a lot worse – why should you change when he won’t?  Well first off, your pocket-book will thank you.  The steam/smoke emitted from your debit/credit card could be greatly reduced.  Of course, this all depends on what you drive (assuming you drive at all), how often, and how far on average.  If you don’t drive at all then you’re already laughing (please drop me a note and let me know some limited details about yourself, why and how long you have been car-less, and how you’re getting by).  If you do currently drive, you should know that there are options.  I will discuss some of them below.

Drive Less

This is perhaps the most obvious option to many people.  Not everyone is able to do this, such as those who drive for a living (taxi drivers, couriers, law enforcement, etc), but if you can it is an easy way to start cutting your ties with the corner gas station.

Now, I can already hear some of you complaining “If I can’t drive, I’ll just be stuck at home all the time.”  I call bullshit on that, one of the laziest excuses out there.  There are a variety of options available, not least of which the appendages attached to your hips (unless you don’t have legs, in which case you probably have a wheel chair and use your arms or some other method to get around).  Benefits of walking include general fitness, socializing with neighbours, reducing local crime rates, and much more.

Of course, it may not be feasible to walk to work, in which case there are other options.

Public Transit

Seen by some as a blessing and by others as a curse, public transit (PT) is certainly a viable option.  Some cite germs or “wierdos” as reasons not to use PT, and others may cite cost.  However, those citing cost as a factor usually do not drive or have never driven.  Fact is, using PT can save you a significant amount over buying fuel for your car/truck.  It is also possible to meet some… interesting… people (both good and bad, I admit).  Finally, you may get some extra reading, work, surfing, or whatever in while riding the train or bus.  Or… you can try to get some sleep.  Just don’t sleep past your stop (I’ve done that before and it was horrible).

Cycling

This is another option that can promote personal health and fitness.  Cycling is very easy, a lot of fun, and generally an excellent mode of transport.  Granted the initial investment in equipment can be expensive, but compared to driving, it pays itself off in spades in a relatively short time.

Indeed, because of accessibility and speed, cycling is one of the best and most effective ways to explore an area.  While many pathways in Calgary don’t really go anywhere (that is, there are no specified destinations), they do often pass through beautiful areas.  Riding to work is an effective way to stay fit – some even continue through the winter months!  If you’re not comfortable riding in winter conditions, I would advise riding in spring/summer and using PT through the winter.

Relocate

For some people, it may be feasible to move to a location closer to where you work.  If this is the case, you should be able to easily walk or cycle to work.  If you’re careful about your new location you should even be able to walk/ride to the local grocer!  What a great way to save money, get exercise, perhaps even have a bit of quality family time.

Be Creative & Innovative

As mentioned above, there are numerous ways to reduce your reliance on your car/truck.  While moving is rarely a fun or even enjoyable experience, relocation can have some wonderful outcomes.  Moving in to a transit-oriented development (TOD) can have the benefit of living near the workplace, the grocer, and many other services.  The same can be said of many other walkable communities such as Calgary’s Kensington or Inglewood.

Yet another option is car sharing.  More and more communities have car sharing programs available for residents.  With car sharing programs you are still paying for fuel, but only what you put into the vehicle.  And you only use the vehicle when you really need it.

Downsize

Now, of course, there will always be people who are unwilling or unable to get rid of their vehicle(s).  One way to get around this, then, is to downsize.  Just buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.  If combined with the application of one or more methods discussed above, this can have a significant impact on your personal chequebook and lifestyle.  In reality, it is only such behaviour changes that reduce fuel consumption, which in turn can help lower prices at the pumps.

In a way, this operates as a carbon tax of sorts, encouraging people to buy smaller cars requiring less fuel.  But if you really hate the idea of a carbon tax, it’s probably best not to think in those terms.

iVoted…

You should too!

Canada is voting today, but if Calgary does today as it has done for years, there will be very little turnout at the YYC polls.  When I got to my polling station around 11:40 AM, the ladies said I was only the 28th voter of the day (at that polling station).  That’s nearly 4.5 hours after polls opened!  I’m really hoping that things pick up, but Calgary is known for its apathy.

This has been a very frustrating campaign for many Calgarians.  Frustrating because not a single sitting party leader bothered to come to this fine city.  NDP leader Jack Layton stopped in Edmonton twice, but couldn’t bother coming three hours south.  The only party leader to make a stop in Calgary (so far as I’m aware) was Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

When it comes to canvassing, I was actively canvassed at home only one time … by the local Green Party candidate, Tony Hajj.  Conservative incumbent Diane Ablonczy played the lazy game of having her minions drop flyers in mailboxes, but (so far as I’m aware) did not step foot in her riding.  Same with the Liberal candidate.  I don’t recall receiving any literature of any sort from the NDP candidate.

So if you’re reading this  blog, you probably are aware of my partisan preference for the Green Party.  Of course I would love it if you vote Green, but so long as you get out and vote I don’t really care for whom you mark your ballot.

Nenshi on Calgary’s Past and Future

Volunteers from Naheed Nenshi’s mayoral campaign have arranged for him to speak on January 16, 2011, at 12:00 noon, at the Unitarian Church of Calgary (on the corner of 16 Avenue and 1 Street NW).

Mayor Nenshi will talk about Calgary’s past, about what Calgary could become, and will answer questions from the audience.  The event is open to the public.

Calgary is still a very young city and this gives us a huge opportunity to shape the city we want.  The core question facing this city is: “Can we make this a great city or will it remain essentially a commercial centre, like Fort McMurray South?  You come here to Calgary to make your buck, and when you’ve made your buck or retire, you take off somewhere where you’d really prefer to live.  Do we have to stay in that sort of mode or can we do something better?”

Mr. Nenshi’s vision for Calgary would turn the boomtown’s malleability into its greatest strength.  He sees Calgary as the first among Canada’s urban equals – a young city, in both historic and demographic terms, populated disproportionately by well-educated recent arrivals.  The lack of set ideas about the city should become a wellspring of opportunity for reinvention.

The mayor doesn’t see a boom-and-bust oil industry centre, but a fully realized city, diverse, urban and transit-based.  He has argued against sprawl and insists that he will make all Calgary’s neighbourhoods safer, greener and more engaging.  He speaks about the need to “reduce [the] number of people living in poverty and ensure opportunity for all.”

Mr. Nenshi grew up in Calgary. He  ascended through the gifted program at a downtown high school, student-union presidency at the University of Calgary, a lucrative consulting position in New York, a scholarship in public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and then returned home to be close to his family. In 2002, when he was only 30, Mr. Nenshi was named chairman of the Epcor Centre For the Performing Arts. He was a tenured professor at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business and is an accomplished author.

Smoky Air Quality

Much of Alberta has become inundated with smoke from forest fires burning in British Columbia, carried east by upper level winds.  To be fair, we deal with at least a few smoky days every summer.  It is still uncomfortable, however, and many people can be adversely affected.  People with respiratory difficulties are, of course, most at risk.  The Alberta government has thus issued an advisory, recommending that people avoid strenuous physical activity outdoors.

Air Quality Measurements and the AQI

Air quality is monitored for various regions in Alberta.  The air quality index (AQI) is provided by Alberta Environment (AENV)  as a “qualitative measure of outdoor air”.  The overall AQI for a given region is determined by the worst of several pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) measured as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Of course, any index requires a scale.  The AQI scale is as follows:

Value Rating
0-25 Good
26-50 Fair
51-100 Poor
>100 Very Poor

Each pollutant above is measured and assigned a value.  The highest value becomes the rating for that region.  Also, it is important to note that each province has its own independent system.  It is therefore impossible to reliably correlate across the country.

Alberta’s Airsheds

For the purpose of air quality monitoring, the province of Alberta is divided into nine regions, called airsheds.  Eight airsheds are up and running, and the other is currently under development (according to the Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA) website, but who knows how often that site is updated).  The nine regions are:

Alberta has basically followed the lead of Saskatchewan in developing airsheds.  The regions covered by Alberta’s airsheds should be familiar to those who remember the old health regions – they’re very similar.

CRAZ

The Calgary Regional Airshed Zone Society is a “non-profit association with members from government agencies …, non-government organizations, industry and the public.”

CRAZ Monitoring Stations

Three active monitoring stations located in Calgary, used to determine air quality for the entire CRAZ.

The most disturbing thing to my mind is that the AQI rating for the entire CRAZ is based on three active monitoring stations located in Calgary (see the map to the right).  However, there are other active monitoring stations in southern Alberta: one in Lethbridge, and another (for the Palliser Airshed Society) in Medicine Hat (which apparently is not currently working).

Of course, there is also the problem that the equipment is old (1970s vintage), likely resulting in increased maintenance costs.

Data

Each airshed zone must submit its data to the Alberta Ambient Air Data Management System – CASA’s data warehouse.  It is designed to be  a central data repository for Alberta’s 140 active monitoring stations.  Should you wish to view the data for yourself, feel free to navigate to the website at http://www.casadata.org.

Toxic or Not?

When government has its hand(s) in the pockets of the oil industry, the word “toxic” takes very different meanings from everyday usage.  The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example, where things basically become out of sight, out of mind.

Saskboy has summarized the question of oil toxicity quite nicely.

Alberta Weed Control Act

Common Dandelion

The common dandelion.

Back in June the Alberta Government passed an updated Weed Control Act.  This is only now coming to light in Calgary, thanks to some media exposure.  The Calgary Sun has an article, and CBC Radio has been talking about it.  The point everyone is focusing on is that the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)  has been removed from the noxious weed list.  This means that it will no longer be the target of bylaw officers throughout Alberta.

I agree: dandelions are annoying.  However they are far from noxious.  Still, Calgary’s bylaw boss, Bill Bruce, has issued a warning: “Dandelions are off the list as of the end of this summer. It means there’s very little we can do about them.”

The interesting (though not surprising) thing is that Calgary City Council failed to pass a pesticide ban in December 2009.  This means that Calgarians remain free to poison their lawns, children, pets, and wildlife with herbicides.

Ward 6 Alderman Joe Connelly appears to take a rather complacent and simplictic view of pesticides and their regulation.  He seems to subscribe to the idea that the federal and provincial government(s) always have the peoples’ best interest at heart, no matter the issue.  According to Mr. Connelly, pesticide regulation is outside the jurisdiction of municipal government – it is best left to the scientists at Health Canada and our beloved elected officials.  I believe that Mr. Connelly is simply running from a problem he doesn’t want to understand.

Putting pesticide regulation outside municipal jurisdiction is simply irresponsible.  Indeed, it was a Canadian municipality, Hudson, Québec, that took the lead against cosmetic pesticide use in 1991.  The town went to court with two manufacturers, and won, effectively setting the stage for future municipal challenges.

There is absolutely no reason for municipalities should avoid pesticide regulation.  It is impractical to rely on federal and/or provincial bureaucrats to decide on policies affecting citizens in towns and cities.  Only councillors and the mayor, who work for and represent the citizens, can effectively make such decisions.  I believe such regulation is the responsibility of municipal governments everywhere.