Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Unsolved Riddle of Everything: Thoughts on the withdrawn Teck Resources Oil Sands Project

Today, when I heard about the company’s withdrawal, I wrote an e-mail to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney. It said:

Dear Prime Minister and Premier,

I am writing to congratulate you both on the happy outcome of this matter. It is difficult to see how it could possibly have worked out better for both of you.

Mr. Trudeau, you have been saved from the need to make a decision about a project that did not yet exist except as an idea. It is difficult to see how you could possibly have made any decision that would not have caused trouble. I did think it odd that you and your colleagues, on behalf of the Canadian people, were being asked to approve a project that was entirely hypothetical. What could you possibly have said, except that years from now, when the company provides details, you, assuming you are still the government of the day, promise to look at them very carefully with due regard for benefits, costs, and the net public interest? I am delighted you been rescued from this necessity, although possibly not as delighted as you are.

Mr. Kenney, while I sympathize with your loss of this particular dream, I am sure you are aware that the people of Alberta have many dreams that you can help them pursue. They may not be as big as this one, but they are within reach as this one never was. I speak from experience, because I was an Albertan myself for twenty-five years, as my children and grandchildren remain. I always found Alberta to be fertile soil for my dreams, which took me from the Cypress Hills to the Crowsnest Pass, from Rainbow Lake to Fort Chipewyan, and just about everywhere in between, talking to people in their communities as they tried to understand what was happening and to make decisions.

I make no judgement as to whether there should or should not be another massive oil sands project on the lower Athabasca. I was there for Syncrude, and know something of the complexities: technical, economic, environmental, social, cultural, and political. It was my job at the time to know them. Of course circumstances may have changed, but I suspect the underlying reality has not: that the benefits of these massive projects are immediate and ephemeral, and some of their very real costs slow to reveal themselves and possibly permanent. I also believe that they bring opportunity costs with them that may never be directly observed, because they are the things that did not happen as the massive project took all the attention and money, and did not leave them room.

I believe there will always be an oil economy in Alberta, because that’s where the oil is, and because oil, in some form, is such an amazing gift of Nature that people will always be able to find uses for it, no matter what happens to specific uses along the way. My experience tells me, however, that producing raw bitumen and shipping it elsewhere in bulk for low margins is an extreme form of the Old Oil economy, and that dreaming, and inventing, and investing, ought to focus on the New Oil economy and all the potential it offers. I don’t pretend to know exactly what the New Oil economy looks like, but I suspect it will be more creative, more value-added, more human-scale, more beneficial, with fewer costly externalities, than any mining and shipping of raw bitumen can ever be.

The people I met in the resource industries of Alberta were very smart people indeed. I suspect they know that the Old Oil economy and way of thinking is going to be replaced by New Oil, and they passionately want to be part of it. I respectfully urge both of you, Prime Minister and Premier, to get behind those people and to help them put Old Oil out to pasture, along with the people who cannot see beyond it. We can argue about the past merits of Old Oil, and whether its huge accomplishments out-weigh its ultimate costs, but the evidence now seems overwhelming, for many different kinds of reasons, that its day is done.

Out with Old Oil, Old Politics, Old Journalism, Old Thought. In with New!

Thank you for listening.

A few subsequent thoughts:

1. I do not blame the company for this decision, but I do for having kited this project in the way they did, and getting Premier Kenney and others all worked up about it. I do congratulate them on having the grace to withdraw it. I suspect, however, there is a strategy of some kind being played out. I have no reason to believe that a company of this stature would truly offer Canadians a pig in a poke, and expect anyone (except Premier Kenney perhaps) to want us to buy it. Teck Resources has done us all a favour. I wonder what the quid pro quo will look like, when they present that.

2. I see no future in massive energy projects. They are intensely political, and the politics have become bad. They have always worked on the assumption that their short-term economic benefits matter, and that their environmental and social costs do not. Anything and anyone that gets in their way can be pushed aside. They hold governments and peoples hostage: do what we want, or we’ll pull the plug. Fortunately this company did that long before they had even started to fill the tub. That is refreshing and unusual. The usual phalanx of loud supporters who would have invested in expectation can surely not have got around to it yet, at least on any large scale. Few should be hurt by yesterday’s decision.

3. We should not get trapped into thinking that huge projects are the only possible channel for investment, even in energy projects. While controversy may swirl around large projects, making them highly visible, smaller ones are going on all the time. We just don’t notice them. Statistics Canada does. We need to pay more attention to the macro-statistics and to understand what they are saying.

4. We should not get trapped into thinking that there are pat solutions to the Unsolved Riddles of our time, we are legion. A recent CBC opinion column spoke of people’s impatience with the inability of the Federal Government to articulate a policy that would occupy the space between the contradictory extremes of our Unsolved Riddles. Policy can clarify the extremes, and specify their relative importance. The space between them cannot be generalized. It is discovered, issue by issue and project by project, through the application of human ingenuity and conversation, a continuous creative process.

5. A little patience and understanding would go a long way towards lowering the pressure, on all sides.

Charging Membranes, Atmospheres … and What Else?

Sixth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries, Wednesday May 1st, 2019. May Day. Or is that MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

My mind is full of questions this morning about the verb “to charge”, and whether it may make some potential difference in the hunt for the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. Now there’s a blast from the past that just popped into my mind as I typed that sentence: potential difference. It came, I think, from my second-year physics course at the University of Toronto, a subject from which my degree of disengagement was exceeded only by thermodynamics. As far as I was concerned at the age of nineteen, electricity and magnetism, on the one hand, and heat, on the other, could do their thing in whatever way they pleased. Their decisions to flow, or not to flow, from one body to another were none of my business.

The idea of potential energy, however, perhaps related if memory serves me, could be my business now, depending on definition; especially the idea of something being charged with potential energy. We sometimes speak of a charged atmosphere; let’s borrow that. Let’s remember that we breathe the the contents of an atmosphere, either the natural one around us, or an artificial one from a tank or controlled environment. BW Powe has recently brought into the perceptual discussion the idea of a charged membrane. Let’s borrow that. Then let’s imagine the situation we may be in.

Let’s imagine two different atmospheres, one conducive to Social Justice, and one not conducive. Let’s imagine them mixed in the same breathing space, just as the natural atmosphere is a mixture of different gases, and as an artificial atmosphere can be made to be. Then let us imagine a membrane that is charged to allow one type of atmosphere through easily and to inhibit the passage of the other. The question then becomes: what kind of a membrane is it, and what kind of charge?

Is it a natural membrane, or do we “facture” it, as in manufacture, or mentafacture if there is such a word? If natural, then our approach to it will have to take one kind of form, if humanufactured, then another. The same goes for the charge. Is the membrane global, enveloping us all like some great blanket, or is it more like a face mask that we can put on or remove at will? And are these questions the essence of what we mean when we call Social Justice an Unsolved Riddle?

I am thinking out loud here, but make no apology. That’s the purpose of this blog. I invite you to think along with me, because I have grave doubts about my capacity to do it on my own.

I have not yet read B.W. Powe’s new book, The Charge in the Global Membrane, but am on track to do so. Based on his books that I have read, I expect to find it both informative and, perhaps more importantly, suggestive. For example, the other day I was reading Outage: A Journey  into Electric City, and was struck by the following line: “I’d been striving for a clear unattainable outside position [concerning information and electronic effects], and I was resisting the deeper and tangled path, the emotional core.” And a few pages later: “A passion for the end may be a passion for breakout and renewal.” What happens to  us if the global membrane is so charged that it filters out the passion for the end that we call Social Justice? How much of what is thought and said about it represents a striving for a clear, unattainable outside position when we should be taking another path, be it ever so deep and tangled?

Stephen Leacock, in 1943 at the very end of his life, in the last paragraph of his last book called While There Is Time, concluded that: “Everything depends on the work of the spirit on the honesty and inspiration of the individual.” He is suggesting that the membrane is a mask that we can individually put on or take off and thus change the atmosphere we breathe. The idea of a global membrane would seem to disagree, or at least suggest that we would have to deal with it even if we each did take off the mask.

I don’t pretend yet to have caught the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, let alone tamed it, but I am coming to believe some things about it. Most importantly, I believe that we can control the spirit we bring to our individual and collective lives, despite the efforts made by all manner of interests to control them for us. These may try to whelm us perhaps, but need not overwhelm. We can choose the deeper and tangled path, and may well find it not nearly as deep and tangled as we fear it is going to be. If it enabled us even to shed some of our anxieties, we might indeed find it quite pleasant.

If we charge the global membrane head-on, can we reverse its charge?

Toward a Truly Humanistic Economics

January 17, 2018

When I was a pale young graduate student I drifted by a peculiar path into the study of economics, or rather into the study of ways of thinking about economics and describing economic realities and relationships. I didn’t really study those phenomena, I simply studied how to study them, and in particular, how to think about them, leading into ideas about how to measure them.

This led me into many a merry adventure, the stories of which I may tell some day. Most recently, through an intensive immersion in the ideas of Stephen Leacock even as I watch carefully what is going on in the world around me, I have come to the conclusion that the field of economics needs thorough overhaul in its ways of thinking. This is not a new idea. Stephen Leacock had the same one back in the 1930’s.

I have come to believe that economics, properly conceived, is a field of the humanities, quite possibly the most important one. It’s as if the world today has become an extraordinarily complex work of art — verbal, literary, visual, sonorous — that needs to be examined and understood by methods appropriate to its nature. Economics are not rational, although they contain some rational elements, nor are they natural, although they contain elements that science can illuminate. They are human, and thus potentially within the embrace of the humanities.

This work of art is of course not an artifact in the usual sense, however. It is organic. Perhaps the best analogy is a garden. If we could imagine a garden, a work of art, that is at the same time partly wild and partly cultivated, that includes not only all the plants contained therein but all the creatures that live among them and the natural forces at work on them which are also built into the work of art — if we had a rigorous way to think about that work of art then we might have begun to find a way to think about economics. I put no limits on the potential of the human intellect. I think we can do it. But we have to think properly about the job, and not underestimate it, or pretend that by taking on only part of it — inevitably the easy part — and treating it as if it were the whole wonderful creation we can properly understand it.

Stephen Leacock never wrote a book called The Unsolved Riddle of Economics, although he certainly said much on the subject. He did write one called The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. I think that economics are about the Unsolved Riddle of Individual and Social Justice, the Unsolved Riddle of how to pursue both at the same time and with the same energy, and the myriad sub-riddles all unsolved that constitute the whole.

I have a lot of reading to do, and as I do it I will talk about it here. Thank you for paying attention, and please stay tuned.

Personal Thoughts for July 1 2017

I run two other blogs besides this one, identified as http://mariposabyconway.wordpress.com/ and https://playstephenleacock.wordpress.com/. The other two are associated with the Stephen Leacock Project, and will evolve as it does. This one is more personal.

I like the idea of celebrating the country, although I will do so today in my own way. When the rain lets up I will take a celebratory walk. The rest of the day I will enjoy my family in a quiet way and attempt to contribute to their enjoyment. That should be enough. Normally, or even obsessively, I avoid crowds. When they gather I will not be there. And as for fireworks, for me they add nothing to the beauties of the silent darkness.

I have been following the comments, both for and against, about our Sesquicentennial. I understand the negativity, although I do not share it. I think that, on balance, Canada’s story is remarkable and well worth celebrating. That there remains much work to be done, and that there are no guarantees about the future unless we work very hard for them and with somewhat more of the enabling virtues than we customarily display, does not for me detract at all. The story remains remarkable, and I will always tell it that way.

I view Canada as a political entity, in the best sense. Our politics are an expression of our community and I am proud of what they have accomplished over the years. Not uncritically proud, of course; that would be stupid. In a country as diverse and multi-point-of-viewed as this one politics are bound to be messy. Maybe that’s as they should be. A man I know likes to say that Nature likes a mess. Maybe Humanity likes a mess too, because mess leaves room for creativity. Too much order stifles the spirit. Canada is a spirited country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

At some point in the colonial past we stopped being administered and became political, that is, began to generate important decisions out of our own conversations and processes instead of having them generated for us from head office or its appointees. It is difficult to pin-point a date. From the time when two people faced each other on the distant shore some kind of negotiation began, explicit or tacit, and that is always a political act regardless of the context. That process continued between local and authoritative voices throughout the colonial era. At some point, however, the balance of power shifted and the local voices became too strong to deny, regardless of the preferences of the formal authorities and their friends. I would put that point somewhere in the movement towards Responsible Government, and thus in the  1840’s. It became obvious in 1848, first in Nova Scotia, then in the Province of Canada.

What Responsible Government created, however, was not a country, or even the intention of a country. These colonies — Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Canada East (Lower Canada), Canada West (Upper Canada) — were separate entities, each with its own history and intentions, although the situation in the Province of Canada was more complex. If it was not a country it was, at least in some respects, beginning to behave like one, and had been since 1841.

I think the country of Canada was born, that is, popped out of the egg and started to breathe on its own on September 7, 1864, when those delegates from Maritime Provinces met in Charlottetown to discuss a union and were joined by delegates from Canada with a proposal for a wider one. If you think September 7th is premature, then try October 27th when the subsequent Québec Conference closed, having adopted the Seventy-Two Resolutions that became the British North America Act.

There sit the delegates, and f they are enjoying the contemplation of the fruits of their labour it would be hard to tell from their faces. And not a woman or an indigenous person or a black or brown face among them. I wonder what the Seventy-Two (or more) resolutions would have looked like if they had been there? Something quite different, no doubt. Better, no doubt, although that’s no reason to despise what we have. These men did the best they could with what they had, and that accomplishment is never to be despised.(Photo from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number C-006350 and under the MIKAN ID number 3623086 through Wikepedia: Quebec Conference 1864.)

QuebecConvention1864.jpg

Therefore: Sorry, all you celebrating folks. The sesquicentennial birthday, if we must have one, was over three years ago. Say October 27, 2014. I, for one, missed it. But I won’t miss the 153rd this Fall. If all goes well, Leslie and I will be in Winnipeg that day. For the reason why, try http://www.voyageurstorytelling.ca

It took another 67 years to sever the umbilical cord completely by means of the Statute of Westminster, or rather, the negotiations that produced it, but that’s another whole raft of stories, all worth telling. (I know that hatchlings from eggs don’t have umbilical cords, of course. A mixed birthing metaphor is appropriate. Call it an umbilical chord: the tune and rhythm matter more than the words.)

And the work continues. The women and indigenous are now at the conference table for sure, along with the more recently arrived peoples from the four corners of the Earth. It’s high time. What Confederation looks like from now on will be something quite different, no doubt. Better, no doubt. Needing improvement, no doubt. That’s Canada. That’s what I celebrate today, and every day. All of it.

Back After the Break: Parties, Tweets, Polls and iPolitics

My last entry here, three months ago, asked: Whither this blog? It might appear, on the surface, to have whithered away entirely, which is only partly true. The blog has been silent, indeed, but I have not. My somewhat sparse political observations have been directed through the comments sections of some stories that caught my attention.

I read those again this morning, and will up-date and post them here when I have time. They talk about some of the issues I specified in my post of January 4th.

The past few days offered three stories that I think are worth passing comment, perhaps more.

The first concerns the Liberal Party’s continuing efforts to turn itself from a political party in the old style to a “movement” in a new one. See http://ipolitics.ca/2016/04/03/trudeau-promotes-wide-open-liberal-party-no-more-membership-privileges/ I take this as an initiative under the general heading of “doing politics differently”.

An anonymous comment suggests the story is “unbalanced”, because it contained no “critical comments” and made “snide remarks” about the Conservatives, who appear to be moving in a contrary direction for what appear to be good reasons. Under the general heading of “doing political journalism differently”, might we ask whether “balance” means that every story must contain both positive and negative comments? If our government, or a party, or politician, does something good, may we not say so? Must we always add a negative comment, in the interest of balance? If we do take that as a standard, then are we not perhaps encouraging a general political culture of carping negativity, and what is the large effect of that?

Obviously we don’t care for seemingly objective news media who simply become propagandists for the government or any side of the political debate. One could hardly accuse iPolitics of being that, especially given Michael Harris’s column yesterday, blasting current policy on some parts of the Plethora of Middle Eastern Questions. See http://ipolitics.ca/2016/04/03/dions-blunders-undermine-trudeaus-claims-that-canada-is-back-on-international-stage/

I think I would interpret the first target of Harris’s rage—Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion’s tweet—somewhat differently. Presumably the minister was under some pressure from somewhere to make that kind of statement. Can any form of ministerial statement be more trivial than a tweet? If M. Dion had wanted his opinion to be taken seriously, he would have used a more serious mode of expression. A tweet is an insignificant verbal gesture. The medium is the message.

As for the rest of Harris’s column, I think it states one side of a couple of questions well enough, and is fair comment. I would suggest, however, that the Plethora of M.E.Q.’s constitutes one of the most complex and difficult of conundrums that our or any government has to face, both morally and practically, and that actions put in place by the previous government, wrong-headed though they may have been in some respects, cannot brusquely be set aside without consequences. Was it Bismarck who said, of some foreign policy issue, that only two people ever understood it: he himself, who had forgotten it, and a professor, who went mad thinking about it? Thinking about the Middle East these days could definitely become fodder for madness. These are the murkiest of waters, and when we try to see through them, or comment on policy, we should treat them accordingly.

My third issue concerns another recent iPolitics story, coming out of the EKOS polling firm. I am referring to http://ipolitics.ca/2016/04/03/trudeaus-nuclear-honeymoon-now-fading-ekos-et/. The story itself, by Elizabeth Thompson, seems fair enough, but the headline is terrible, because it reflects one of the two polls reported—concerning the “direction Trudeau is taking Canada”—and not the other—concerning how people would vote at present. And the whole “direction” question respondents were asked, with the method used (a “high definition interactive response poll of 2,019 respondents”) must make this one of the most useless polls ever taken. What kind of statistical nonsense is that?

Ms. Thompson assures us that the poll is “considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points (I love the specious precision!) 19 times out of twenty”! Well folks, I will put my statistical credentials up against hers any day, whatever hers may be, and I don’t consider this stupid poll accurate within the maximum possible number of percentage points even once, nor worthy of any comment except instant dismissal. And as for the regional comparisons, yikes!

Surely if we want to see politics “done differently” we should ask our polling companies to get on board, and stop obfuscating the conversation by glib and careless work. A little training for the iPolitics headline writers wouldn’t hurt either.

I think iPolitics does a good job within a few percentage points most of the time, and I appreciate their work. But the quest for “politics done differently” must include them, and all journalists. There, am I being balanced?

Thoughts on the Morning of Election Day: End of this phase of my blog: Excelsior!

Monday, October 19: Election Day

Well folks, here’s hoping: a minority parliament, with all parties prepared to try to make it work. I do not expect them to give up their differences of opinion. I expect them to negotiate in good faith, and not to exploit the situation for partisan advantage.

The business of the country must get done, and expeditiously. We have tried a series of short-term near-dictatorships, to that end. And now look at the mess we are in. Let’s try something different.

For too long we have allowed our legislators and governors, at all levels, to manipulate the political system for their own partisan advantage. Let them use it for our advantage, for a change. And if they cannot agree on where that advantage lies, then let them negotiate, issue by issue, in good faith, and with an understanding that they must come to an agreement (which is not the same thing as agreeing) with whatever urgency the situation requires.

In other words, a Parliament of Creative Negotiators, not a hung parliament.

Professor Pam Palmater of Ryerson University participated yesterday in a panel discussion on CBC Radio, and said a wise thing. She said that October 19th is not nearly as important as October 20th. That’s when the work begins.

On Election Day, I wish to repeat two ideas that appeared earlier in this blog:

First, that we will be governed by the mind-set of the people with the power, and not by any catalogue of details they may have spoken or published during the campaign. The latter are clues to the mind-set, but not definitive. By “mind-set” I mean something wider than “values”, although values are important.

Second, when systems are failing, the supervisors of the system have to take some responsibility for its failure. True, the participants are responsible too, in this instance, quite significant responsibility. But if our political system has been failing, then we have to take our share of the responsibility, and the media on which we rely for our information have to take theirs. And taking responsibility means doing the work to make that effective.

And that, for us, the people, means ceaseless agitation: writing to our MP’s, MPP’s-MLA’s-MNA’s, municipal counsellors, and our news media, telling them what we think and what we want them to do. It means being engaged, being involved, and being prepared to invest the time and effort necessary.

The recent election campaign has made me resolve to do that better than I have in the past. Tomorrow the work begins.

Anything I write to politicians and journalists will appear also on this blog.

All the best to all my readers, and many thanks for your interest.

From Four Make One: The Muddle Party Platform

Thursday, October 15th

One of my correspondents, a dear friend and colleague, referred the other day to the current election as “epic”. I will examine that proposition in a minute, but first I must report on my excursions into the Platforms (or rather the Platform documents) of the four parties running in this constituency: Conservative, Green, Liberal, and NDP.

First, a few technicalities. I am reading all of these in PDF form, on my desktop. I also have them in text form, for more detailed textual analysis, if required. If Marshall McLuhan is correct, that “the medium is the message”, then that is my medium. The following table gives a few statistics, to set the stage.

Untitled

The first thing I noticed is that none of them, even the Conservatives with their exceptionally talented typographers, has figured out that a PDF is a computer-screen document, and that computer screens are oriented landscape, not portrait. Tablets can be either, of course, but anybody reading one of these things on a tablet had better have good light, and good eyes. Wow! The bigger the screen, the better. The second thing is that they are all full of good stuff, and if you put them all together, with all their differences and contradictions, eliminated a few silly ideas put in there for the delectation of the various “bases”, and edited out the rotten prose and jargon, you would have a really good Muddle Party Platform.

In other words, we shouldn’t have to choose only one of these platforms, but rather have the best of them all together. And isn’t that what Parliament is supposed to be about? These documents cry out for an evenly balanced parliament of minorities, in which everything has to be negotiated. In the realm of political ideas, survival of the fittest sounds like a good principle to me. Who says that the best government for us will come from some kind of “winner”? I think that government by an unfettered “winner” is good primarily for the winner. If these Platforms are anything to go by, we lose a lot of really good stuff, under that system.

I like what happens when you put all four of the “first words” together, in a slightly different order:

VISION :: GROWTH :: BUILDING :: PROTECTION

Vision, for what guides us; Growth (of all kinds, not only economic), for what we want; Building, for how we achieve it; Protection, against threats to what we value. Of course, the whole thing is more complicated, but these are first words, not whole text. Put together, I think they make a good statement.

I think it highly likely that what we will get, when the tumult and the shouting die, is a government that actually provides some form of feasible muddle of all these ideas. The alternative to muddle is ideology, and we have had enough of that. Muddle is good. Muddle is stability. Muddle is democracy.

If the polls are anything like correct, it appears we may even get a beautifully muddled parliament. What a gift! Go for it, electors of the land!

But can an election producing such a result be “epic”, in any sense? The campaign, on the contrary, has been rather a squalid affair, for the most part, in its pandering to prejudice; simplistic messages; puerile rhetoric; obsession with the leaders none of whom, except for Elizabeth May, is a terribly interesting person — the other three sleek, cowering, timorous mouseketeers (in their ideas, not their personalities) are not epic figures by any stretch; schoolyard taunting; petty manipulation of appearances; etc.

And will the results be epic, if the same spirit pervades our 42nd Parliament? Alas, not likely. Political, social, and economic life will go on pretty much as before, with perhaps some new faces and a little adjustment at the margins, of almost no significance to the great issues that a gnawing away at our foundations: degradation of the places we live and need for life (a much larger phenomenon that just climate change, important as that is); the tribalization of society (predicted 50 years ago by Marshall McLuhan); the erosion of economic civilization by obsessive consumerism and financial speculation; degradation of the common wealth; etc. And these things will go on happening, not because our leaders and political systems are deficient, but because we, collectively, cannot summon up the sense and the will to tell them to shape up, reform their methods of discourse, and look after our true interests instead of their own.

Elizabeth May and the Greens, despite the turgid verbosity of their Platform, come the closest to understanding and advocating for the kind of radical changes we so desperately need. Does this mean people will vote for them? If we are lucky, they will in a few constituencies.

We are fortunate here in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. We have three candidates we can honestly vote FOR, which is more than I can say for their parties, taken individually. Our current (Conservative) MP is arguably an unworthy representative; our most vital imperative locally is to vote against him. I think the “strategic vote” (bad term—it’s not strategic at all, but tactical in a negative way) is going to go Liberal.

I have reached the point where I really don’t care who wins, as long as they win with a minority. Because then they will have to sit down and negotiate a government for us, instead of imposing one on us. And we can influence the negotiation, by speaking up while they jaw. But that process, however healthy, is not likely to address the huge issues. For example, I suppose we might dream of a better short-term climate change policy coming from it, but that benefit would be only marginal. Addressing climate change itself is an entirely different matter, so much beyond the control of the Government of Canada by itself, as to make its policy almost totally irrelevant. The problem of climate change lies much deeper, not in the way our governments act but in the way our people live, and the huge forces that win power and profit from encouraging them to go on living that way. That whole story is epic all right, if a tale of unmitigated gloom can be epic.

A story of the people actually fighting against those forces and electing governments who would take up arms against them, would be epic indeed, and I would like to see it. But I don’t see much hope that it will start soon, and it’s certainly not being fought for in this election, at any level.

Still, I am full of hope, for a muddled minority government doing the best that it can in an imperfect system, country and world, with much interesting conversation along the way.

Speaking of muddle, I am wondering about a phrase that caught my eye as I skimmed through the Conservative document, referring to Canada’s “fragile economy”. I thought these guys had been in office for nine years. Could we not expect them to have done something in that time to make our economy less fragile? Perhaps had they done that, their party could have made their first word something positive. I know something about economics, and I think the Conservatives’ ideas on that subject are not muddled, but belong in the silly bin.