Monday, December 17, 2007

The efficient society

So we've had a major snow storm in southern Ontario, which is the perfect occasion for me to propound my latest theory of Canadian politics: what Canadians call "efficiency" usually amounts to "doing a shitty job."

You see, Toronto lies at a lattitude where snow is a recurring event. Indeed, in my years here I've never once seen a winter without it. Most winters can be counted on to get at least one good walloping, and sometimes two or three. And yet, this city is never, ever prepared for it. This applies in the collective sense -- we have truly awful snow removal problems -- and the individual -- Toronto drivers are so hysterically bad at driving in the snow, when it arrives, that you're completely safe to walk down the middle of the street: even if they're trying to hit you, they won't be able to. When it comes to snow, Toronto does a shitty, shitty job.

Other cities are better at snow removal, but the lesson applies elsewhere. The core of the hallucination that is called the "fiscal imbalance" says that while Ottawa has all the money, the Provinces have all the obligations. This is totally incorrect. First of all, the Provinces have access to all the same revenues that the Feds do, save some minor ones like external tariffs, etc.* Secondly, Ottawa is responsible for this minor little item called, oh wait what's it called, oh that's right -- national defense. In the modern context, with proper equipment and numbers, and given our geographical location and size, and our multiple commitments to both the UN and NATO, Canada's defense budget should be much, much larger. It isn't, because -- you guessed it -- we've adopted the cost-saving measure known as "doing a shitty job."

For a provincial example, see Health Care, funding of.

Leave your own favourite example in the comments.

*Oh, and I'm really quite gratified to see that Dalton McGuinty obliged me by totally fucking proving my point last week. Queen's Park has all the money it needs to solve Toronto's problems, he was just being whiny and trying to score cheap points off of Harper. Of course, given the state of the national Liberal Party, I can understand the impulse...


Mike said...

I lived at Younge and Eglinton during the winter of 98, when Mayor Mel had to call out the Army to help dig us out. We arrived home 1 day early from our Christmas vacation in Ottawa at the in-laws because we saw the storm coming and managed to turn onto Soudan and pull into the parking garage just as the first flakes fell. When we woke, we certainly had a lot of snow, but not an unusual amount and nothing that isn't common in places like London or Ottawa.

Well they dug us out and that fantastically efficient snow melting machine started up Younge at Front. It was January 2nd. It made it to Eglinton in March, by which time the snow was melting on its own. During the intervening 4 months, it ran 24 hours a day, with a crew of 4, blocked traffic on the busiest street in Canada and accomplished nothing.

Hows that for inefficient snow removal.

FWIW, we got the same kind of dump in Ottawa yesterday and we still were able to drive through it to take the kids to skating. How's that for inefficient?

Gar Lipow said...

Coming out of hiding (I'll start posting again soon, honest) to ask: are you nuts?

You want Canada to spend more on war? Exactly what threats should Canada be defending against? I guess someday the U.S. or Russia might invade. After the all, the mounties were founded to repel a genuine threat of U.S. invasion at one point .But I don't know that even multiplying defense spending by ten would do a whole lot of good in those cases.

Or do you want Canada to put more troops into Afghanistan? Maybe Canada could open up little bases in Germany right next the U.S. big ones? In short do you really want Canada to start doing the same crap the U.S. does -- only on a smaller scale. War is one of the world's great waste, as is military spending. The right amount to spend on your military is as little as you can manage and not be attacked or invaded. The U.S. has not followed this rule, and I think neither we, nor the world are better for it. Why would you want Canada to screw up one of the few things it apparently does right? (In fact I suspect you could argue that the Canadian military is still bigger than it needs to be.)

Gar Lipow said...

Oh, and Happy Holidays.

john said...

Happy holidays Gar, and there's a difference between an authentic policy of national defense, which I think Canada should pursue, and simply shovelling more money in to war machines. You have to understand that at the moment, Canada doesn't have the means to ensure basic claims of sovereignty over its own territory against even minor countries in the Arctic -- as just one example.

I think my point is less "Canada should spend more on the military" than "if we're going to ask the military to do things we're asking it, then we need to give it the money to do it."

Ethan Hunt said...

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P.S.Have a happy winters.