Category Archives: News

HST Referendum – My 12 Cents

I finally got my HST referendum in the mail. Now I just have to figure out how to vote. I’m not happy with either option.

On the right hand, we have the Liberals lying about introducing the HST, spending ridiculous sums of money to convince voters to keep it, making dubious claims that it will create jobs, and promising to reduce the HST to 10% if they’re reelected.

On the left hand, we have the NDP and Bill Vander Zalm whipping up anti-tax sentiment, claiming British Columbians are ‘struggling to make ends meet’ and can’t afford any more taxes, and ignoring the complication of going back to the GST/PST after the change has already been made.

I think both are stupid.

When the HST was first introduced, the Liberal government said it would be ‘revenue neutral’. Then they realized they would make more money off it, but said all the extra money would help fund health care – ok, I can support that. Then they said they would lower the tax rate to 10%. Wait a minute, I thought that money was needed to support health care?

The HST is obviously a simpler tax then the GST/PST, and I can support that. I don’t envy any retailers who will have to revert the changes to their computer systems if the referendum passes. The old PST rules had hundreds of exemptions. Yes, bikes and biking gear was one exemption, and I don’t like that bikes are now more expensive, but there are better ways for the government to support cycling then tax breaks.

I think I’d be willing to support the HST if it was left at 12%. Getting rid of the HST seems irresponsible at this point. Keeping it and lowering it to 10% will hamstring future government revenue. What to do?

Maybe the battling stickman videos will help me decide. The first one is part of the government’s $5 million ad campaign to sell the HST and has almost 50 views on Youtube (the video on Vimeo has closer to 1000). Money well spent.

Village Carnivale and Car-Free Festival

How do you get over a riot? A carnivale and car-free festival might help.

The riot was a black eye on Vancouver, but I’m amazed by how quickly things are getting back to normal in Vancouver. The window at work was smashed in, but replaced before noon.

This weekend there are two fun events two help forget the ugly riot after Wednesday’s hockey game.

Here at the Olympic Village, there is a 4-day Village Carnivale that starts tonight. It includes a “65 foot high Ferris Wheel” that looks small next to the giant birds in the plaza.

Sunday is also Car-Free Vancouver Day (in addition to being Father’s Day). Commercial Drive, Main Street, Denman, and areas in Kitsilano will be closed to traffic and huge street parties with music, parades, street food, and vendors will take over.

Return of the Jets

Congratulations Winnipeg. I never thought it would happen. When the Jets left I was 13. I emptied my piggy bank. I donated money to the Save the Jets campaign. I attended a rally. But the Jets left anyway, and then I left Winnipeg.

Even when it was announced that Winnipeg would get a team, I wasn’t sure if fans would buy in. The Jets always had lots of fans, just not enough to fill the seats. Winnipeg is a cheap city. I remember CBC blacking out local games so people wouldn’t just stay home and watch them on tv. I guess things have changed, because the season tickets sold out in 17 minutes. All 13,000 are gone. Impressive.

So, good luck Winnipeg. I hope the team does well and the fans stick with them. But I have a new team now. And they’re two wins away from the Stanley Cup. Go Canucks Go!
Young Canuck

490 litres of water! Where did it all go?

We’re lucky in Vancouver to have some of the best drinking water in the world. Most of the world isn’t as lucky. Unfortunately, we take it for granted, probably because tap water is free. We buy imported water in plastic bottles, and then frivolously flush our pristine water down the drain. How twisted.

I read a report recently that said the average Canadian uses 326 litres per person per day. A shockingly high number that puts Canada second only to the United States. In British Columbia, we use even more water, with the average British Columbian consuming 490 litres per day! Most people’s reaction on hearing that number is to assume it must factor in industrial or commercial uses. Well, it doesn’t. If it did, it would be closer to 4,400 litres per day.

comparison of residential water usage

So, how is it possible that each of us consumes around 490 litres per day? It happens one flush at a time.

    Canadian residential water consumption

  1. 35% Showers and baths – biggest domestic user, but also extremely variable. A 10-minute shower with a standard shower head would take 200 litres. A 5-minute shower with a newer low-flow shower head would only consume 50 Litres.
  2. 30% Toilet flushingEach flush of an older toilet takes 15 litres. New low-flush toilets only consume 6 litres per flush. Multiply that by 5 trips and that could add up to 90 litres.
  3. 20% LaundryA top-loading washing machine consumes 150 litres per load. A front loading machine would consume closer to 80 litres per load.
  4. 10% Kitchen and LaundryA load of dishes in a dishwasher consumes about 40 litres of water. When hand-washing, a sink full of water is about 35 litres.
  5. 5% CleaningThis includes hand-washing and teeth brushing.

You’ll notice the above doesn’t include watering lawns, washing cars, filling hot tubs (if only I was so lucky). So, it doesn’t take long to add up to 490 litres if you have inefficient appliances and waste water. The good news is there is a lot we can do to reduce the amount of water we each consume. Low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, more efficient dishwashers, and front-loading washing machines can easily reduce consumption by 50%.

There are great tips on the Living Water Smart website, including:.

Posted as part of Blog Action Day 2010 – Water.

Debunked: Reasons for scrapping the mandatory long-form census

I’ve heard a lot of desperate Conservative supporters try to muster arguments on why scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a good idea, even as opposition mounts. I thought it would be fun to debunk a few of the arguments, because most of them are simply ridiculous.

  1. Scrapping the long-form census will save taxpayers millions – Actually it will cost an extra $30 million dollars to operate the optional long-form census because it will be sent to 1/3 of Canadians instead of 1/5.
  2. Most European nations, including those bastions of socialism in Scandinavia, are scrapping their census – Yes, in fact they are. They’re scrapping it because they already have detailed registers about you’re personal life, your home, and where you work. Is that really what you want?
  3. An optional census can be just as accurate as a mandatory one. Polling companies produce lots of reports with voluntary surveys. – Polling companies are constantly struggling to account for bias in their models, and it’s not easy. The main way to account for bias is to track the demographic information of your respondents and then weight the results based on data from Statistics Canada’s census. But now that the census data has bias in it, pollsters will be screwed. Compound bias will really mess things up.
  4. If you want the data, you should pay to collect it yourself – This is Tony Clement’s most recent argument. It’s not that the Conservatives don’t realize the value of having good data. They keep a giant voter database with lots of private information on you and me. They just think businesses, organizations, and local governments should pay to collect it themselves. First it would be a huge waste to have every business and organization pay to have the same data collected. Second, the government is still collecting the data (at an extra cost of $30 million), it’s just crap data now and I’m not sure how anyone could get better data because any voluntary survey will be plagued with the problems noted above – mainly compound bias.
  5. The questions on the long-form census are an invasion of my privacy – This is the only valid argument I’ve heard, but it is still pretty weak. You can read the long-form census here. It’s pretty dry stuff. Facebook and Google know more about me than Statistics Canada does, and they don’t have near the privacy scrutiny and regulations placed on them that Statistics Canada does.

All of this leaves me to believe there is a different reason why the Conservatives want to scrap the mandatory long-forum census – so the government can make up statistics at will. Sound far-fetched? Too much like a Stephen Colbert skit?

Just this week, the Conservatives announced that we are going to spend $9-billion to build more jails, even though statistics indicate crime rates are dropping across the country.

Although the official crime rate is going down, a senior Harper government minister says there is reason to disbelieve the statistics and spend billions of dollars on new prisons: an “alarming” increase in unreported crime.

First, they “disbelieve” the statistics, as if faith is necessary to understand them. Second, even if there was an “increase in unreported crime” (a great made up statistic if I ever heard one), why are we spending $9-billion on new jails? If the crimes is unreported, I’m guessing no one is being convicted.

Happy Car-Free Vancouver

MEC Bikefest
Sunday was Car-Free Vancouver Day – with street parties throughout the city celebrating all the progress this city is making. I missed most of the action, as we were on a hiking/camping trip in Golden Ears Provincial Park (pictures here), but want to acknowledge the progress Vancouver is making.

There have been huge improvements to cycling infrastructure. Following up on last falls Burrard Bridge bike lane, there is now a dedicated bike lane over the Dunsmuir Viaduct all the way through downtown (more details). I’ve been taking it every day, and it really makes my commute a lot faster and safer. And it seems to be gaining popularity with local cyclists – every day I have to share the lane with more and more cyclists. Of course there is the same tired arguments from some critics, but the results will speak for themselves.

The next steps for Vancouver will be another separated downtown bike lane, linking the Dunsmuir lane with the Burrard Bridge. And if the city can find away around the province’s mandatory helmet law, we might see Bixi bike sharing soon.

In other exciting car-free news, I’ve heard rumours that the city will try turning Granville Street into a pedestrian-only zone. After the success the street saw during the Olympics, I’m really happy city council is showing some leadership and reclaiming more public space from cars and returning it to pedestrians.

For a broader perspective on transportation issues, see Wired’s The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic.

Democracy is Dead – Long Life the Status Quo

Voter turnout plummets to 50% – Half of voters in this province couldn’t even bother to show up, and of those that did only 39% of those wanted to change our deeply flawed electoral system. My riding had the highest support for BC-STV (61.6%), but it was one of only 7 where BC-STV broke 50%.

The biggest loser last night was the environment. Both the Liberals and NDP had lacklustre environmental platforms, and yet both saw their vote percentage rise slightly. The Greens had the best environmental platform and yet their vote percentage dropped for the 2nd straight election. Worse, the BC-STV referendum failed miserably. If it passed, we could have seen real change in this province, including a few Green MLAs and a bigger focus on real environmental change, instead of just green washing.