Thursday, April 19, 2018

Worth Reading - April 19, 2018

Ryerson University announced the location for its Brampton campus: Downtown at the Go station location.

Corey Mintz excoriates those that treat coffee shops like their personal office spaces. 

The ONDP has released their platform for the coming election. 

John Michael McGrath has some questions about the ONDP's platform

Premier Kathleen Wynne had an amazing string of tweets tying Doug Ford to Donald Trump. 

Some municipalities are cracking down on the proliferation of payday loan businesses

Eleven-year-old twins in the UK demonstrate the flimsiness of race as one 'appears' black while the other white. 

Mark Zuckerberg's testimony should leave us all feeling uncomfortable with the pervasive nature of social media companies and the abuse of our data. 

James Comey's book about his times as Director of the FBI certainly seems like a fascinating read. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Meaningful Employment in the Post-Job World

A friend and I have a theory about Star Trek: it's a secret dystopia. Despite the polish and gleam on the surface there is a deep, disturbing rot at the heart of the Federation. That rot is joblessness. The Federation is a post-scarcity society. Mankind (and its allied species) do not require to work and earn income to support themselves. Humanity is free to 'pursue its potential, and better itself.' It's a high and lofty goal, but I don't think it fits with human nature.

I may be conflating culture with human nature. I am ready to accept that. That said, culture is no so easily cast aside. As I understand people we take great purpose from our work. Not all of us like our work, hell, probably a minority do, but there is a certain satisfaction in working to achieve certain ends and earning a return for it. The more personal satisfying the work the better, no doubt.

I have a bizarre personality quirk; I don't do well with unstructured time. Due to the weather I had yesterday off work. As I sat home, free time to myself I felt restless. I grabbed a shovel and began the largely fruitless task of trying to clear the driveway. The muscles that were sore from the gym are sorer and my hands ache, but I felt a foolish sense of pride at getting it done. I have had a new project for work lately and as I chip away at it I feel satisfied. I don't earn enough money or work enough hours, but it's something.

Our economy seems obsessed with cutting costs primarily through labour. Unemployment may dip but it feels like a big slice of the workforce is hardly working to their potential, or have abandoned the labour force entirely. For the first half of the twentieth century we saw technological innovation spur on employment and create new fields and more employment. In the second half and onwards we have seen human labour be displaced and the fruits of growing productivity go elsewhere. We are on the precipice of entire categories of work vanishing.

People with an eye to the future suggest things like guaranteed annual income to counterbalance the issues that may arise from these things. However, given our culture I don't think it would be healthy to simple create a growing class of people without purpose. Sure, some percentage may dedicate themselves to the arts or self-improvement, but I fear a greater number would lose themselves in leisure, idleness and vice as though on a permanent, hollow vacation growing ever restless.

Unemployment among my generation is disturbingly high in some countries. Underemployment higher still. I hope this prolonged period has not been destructive in the long-term, but there's evidence to the contrary. Look at the North American Rust Belt. Has two generations of economic stagnation benefited those regions? I think these are questions we'll all have to wrestle with in coming years and decades.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Worth Reading - April 12, 2018

Steve Paikin writes that the voters of Ontario have rarely been offer such a stark set of choices for who they wish to lead them in the upcoming election

Former PC leadership contender, Tanya Granic Allen is under scrutiny for tweets about gay people and Muslims

From Strong Towns, what makes affordable housing not so affordable

Mark Zuckerberg's appearance in front of the Congress was a sham

The Globe and Mail calls out Doug Ford for avoiding scrutiny from the media

A dramatic film about Rob Ford is being made, but apparently the Robyn Doolittle-like journalist who pursues the story will be played by a man. 

In the ongoing spiral of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, MPP Michael Harris has been removed from caucus. 

Paul Krugman calls out the hollowness of the American right's intellectuals

The Economist reports that democracy continues its sad, steady decline

Someone painstakingly modeled San Francisco in a city-builder video game

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Making Peace with Pipelines

This is just a quick piece. The conversation is more nuanced than this, but really I just wanted to stake a simple position out. 

I don't love pipelines. I think they're problematic in many dimensions, but unlike many who feel the way I do I am forced to live in a realm with a certain amount of reality. Despite approval from the federal government and consistent pleading of the Alberta government the pipeline projects are stalled. The British Columbia government has promised fresh roadblocks to prevent the only accepted pipeline from going ahead. This is unacceptable.

We live in a world with certain realities. The anti-pipeline movement has lost at every official level over and over again. One may disagree with the process, but it has gone through. Nearly all of the legitimate avenues to stop this pipeline has been exhausted. Canada is an energy producing nation, we cannot hide from that. Even if the world were to radically move towards a post-carbon future we would need these resources for other purposes. But we're not heading in that direction any time soon. The environmental movement's treatment of Alberta in some ways is merely cutting our collective nose to spite our face.

More to the point, Canada needs to acting more like a country and less like a loose confederation of petty countries if we are going to succeed. The federal government ruled this pipeline was in our interest, which it arguably is. British Columbia cannot pretend to be outside that decision.

It's not that the fight wasn't justified, but I think people should consider what the fight really was. We transport chemicals via train, which is far more dangerous and hurts our productivity. The product is being made regardless of how it is shipped. Energy is a critical part of our economy. We cannot thumb our noses at Alberta's economic priorities while continuing to profit from it. Frankly, the energy devoted to the pipeline question would probably have been better served in improving regulations, changing land-use patterns and focusing on the real culprit for carbon monoxide emissions - the public. But those are harder challenges and it's easy to rally against pipelines.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Worth Reading - April 5, 2018

Chuck Marohn takes aim at the potential of automated vehicles

The CBC's Neil Macdonald makes a point many on the American left have argued, that advocates for sane alternatives in American policy need to stand up and fight back

Jen Gerson has about half a point here where she talks about the reasonableness of high-speed rail in Ontario. However,  she undercuts herself by pointing to Alberta as a sensible counter example.

John Michael McGrath points out that the plans for high-speed rail in Ontario are actually less than they seem

Steve Paikin writes about how the PC leadership race has thrown the federal plan for carbon pricing into uncertainty

From Twitter, the Cambridge Analytica scandal involved the compromising of 600000 Canadian Facebook accounts.
Jagmeet Singh's brother will contest his Brampton seat in the next provincial election

From the New Yorker, Mark Zuckerberg should read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Third Party Advertisers in Ontario

Last night I attended an information session at Brampton City Hall about the upcoming October municipal, regional, and other local elections. To my embarrassment it was there that I learned about something I had not heard about.

In the next local election in Ontario there will be groups, third parties, who will be eligible to advertise on behalf of candidates, causes and ballot questions. Corporations and unions will be forbidden from donating directly to candidates but they can create or donate to these third party organizations.

Before you raise objections I should lay out some of the details. Municipal elections used to be a bit of the Wild West when it came to campaigns. There were restrictions on donation amounts and spending limits, but anyone or any entity could donate to any campaign. The changes in the law have the potential to make individual campaigns more about citizens and their interests and also give third parties chances to advocate for their causes.

These third party advertisers can receive a maximum of $1200 per individual/corporation/union and those donors can give a maximum of $5000 to all third party advertisers in a given municipality. While I learned of this information I began to seriously worry that there might be big moneyed interests that would use this as a way to bully the electoral. Real-estate developers and others in the housing industry could easily pool their money to push for more sprawl-friendly candidates. On the other hand I could imagine those in Brampton who fought hard for the Hurontario LRT creating "Friends of the LRT" and endorsing candidates to make sure the next council doesn't make the same mistakes.

TPA might also pave the way for something Ontario local politics rarely deals with: slates. There are no such thing as local political parties. There is no Liberal, Conservative of New Democratic Party of Brampton. I actually think large cities would be served by having political parties, Toronto in particular. However, if a TPA was, say, the Progressives of Brampton or Free Enterprise Alliance, and advocated for council candidates and mayoral candidates that fit their vision it could simplify voting.

I have no doubt that there will be issues around TPAs in the municipal campaigns, but I will be curious to see how it plays out and I am not entirely convinced it will go poorly. The nominations for candidates and to register third party advertisers opens on May 1st and voting concludes on October 22nd. I think we can all look forward to an interesting campaign.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Worth Reading - March 30, 2018

A bit of a shorter list this week. Yesterday did not go well, so apologies for missing the post. I hope some of these grab your interest.

The Ontario government has proposed big changes to mental health care

A friend recommended this article after seeing my post on Tuesday on social media. It explores the notion of crowd psychology

Notorious partisan, Ian Capstick, is taking a step away from partisan life for the sake of mental health. 

Strong Towns has a two part series on how other industries can learn from craft beer brewing. Part 1Part 2

Long-time Councillor in Brampton, Elaine Moore, announced she will not seek re-election and will retire this fall