The young man, never to be seen again, was among 1,012 killed that foggy night when the Empress of Ireland collided with a freighter off Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula and plunged beneath the surface in just 14 minutes.
Dubbed "Canada's Titanic," the sinking on May 29, 1914, stands as one of the country's worst maritime disasters, though a surprising number of Canadians have never heard of it.
Most Canadians have never heard of Gerald Butts. Most wouldn’t recognize him if they saw him. Bearded, bespectacled, sometimes even a little scruffy, he melts away from the spotlight. Yet the 42-year-old Cape Bretoner has been on the other end of the phone or at the back of the room for all of the big moments in Justin Trudeau’s political life.
Whatever might be said about his politics, he's a coal miner's son who worked his way up. He is one of those clever people who surround and manage political theatre. I suspect that Justin needs him far more than he needs Justin.
I take it somebody is looking for some free publicity:
A high-speed rail service could one day haul travellers from China to Canada, according to a pair of recent reports from Russian and Chinese state-funded news sites.
What seems like a flight of fancy — a rail line that stretches from Asia to North America via a tunnel under the Bering Strait — could be on solid footing, according to the reports by China Daily and RIA Novosti.
The line would start in northeast China, run through Siberia, dive under the Bering Strait, daylight again in Alaska and continue into North America, according to the reports.
The trip would take two days. There might be some merit to hauling cargo in this way, but I doubt it. With a two trillion dollar price tag it doesn't provide enough real gain to compete with conventional alternatives. A new idea has to be cheaper or better or both than the old idea. This is none of those things.
Today, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Forum in Beijing, China, Lois Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, announced a new initiative to promote women's economic empowerment in the Philippines.
Did you follow the bouncing ball? At a conference in China the minister for international development and La Francophonie announced a project to help women in the Philippines with Canadian money. Even by the convoluted logic of modern government none of that makes much sense. If you're planning on helping people in the Philippines with Canadian money shouldn't you be making the announcement, ahem, in either Canada or the Philippines? Or is this one of those things where the minister happened to be in China and, what the heck, decided there was no point travelling all the way to Manila.
Canada's Conservative Government: Wasting your money in the laziest manner possible.
The project is offering up to $8 million dollars over a period of six years. Did we mention that there are 99 million people in the Philippines? The per capita income at PPP is about $4,600. The proposed aid is less than a drop in the bucket. While micro-financing has certainly been successful in parts of the Third World, notably in Bangladesh, it hasn't been instrumental in raising a nation out of poverty. If you look at the great economic success stories post-1945 microfinancing has been irrelevant.
You don't build bridges, dams, factories or electrical plants with tiny loans. A modern economy needs billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. It needs a secure system of property rights to encourage the development of a middle class and limit rent seeking, It needs open domestic markets and free trade. Throwing $8 million into some rural villages will certainly help, assuming much of the money isn't stolen or wasted on overhead, but even in the best circumstances it won't trigger an economic take off.
For all the genuine benefits that microfinancing has brought it has succumb to the worst possible of fates, it has become politically fashionable. Traditional government to government foreign aid has come under considerable fire in recent years. The waste, the corruption and the odious regimes it supported have turned western electorates and public policy analysts off the idea. Along comes microfinancing which looks to be a triple win. Direct aid that encourages low scale economic development while also improving conditions for women and girls.
There is merit to the concept as a private charitable activity. Once government arrives to help very little help actually winds up happening. It becomes less about helping, however modestly, those in need and more about politicians appearing to help. There is no end to the mischief caused by those seeking not to do something, but to seem as if they're doing something.
Macdonald, a staunch believer in the supremacy of the British Empire, very much enjoyed visiting England and did so often while prime minister. And what he “enjoyed most of all,” recalled his loyal assistant and biographer, Joseph Pope, “was intercourse with Imperial statesmen. ‘I do not’ (Macdonald wrote), ‘think there is anything in the world equal in real intellectual pleasure to meeting the public men of England. Their tone is so high and their mode of thinking so correct, that it really elevates me.’”
The Government of Canada is providing $24,225 in funding to the Optimist Club of Saskatoon for its Canada Day activities held in Diefenbaker Park.
Maurice Vellacott, Member of Parliament (Saskatoon–Wanuskewin), made the announcement today on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The Government of Canada is providing this financial support through the Celebrate Canada Program.
The press release's headline is: Investing in Saskatoon's Canada Day Celebrations in the Park. Ahem. How is paying for a large party an "investment" in anything? If I go down to the LCBO and buy a bottle of Johnny Walker black label, is that an "investment" too? If so what's my ROI? What's the triple bottom line on a serious hangover?
It's understood that governments have an inherently antagonistic relationship with the English language. Generations of grammarians and school masters strove diligently to teach their young wards the importance of clear and logical communication. A strong grasp of English allowed students to think and understand at a sophisticated level. We don't want any of that stuff now. People who think and talk clearly are a threat to governments the world over.
The art of government, to some extent, is the combined art of order and bullshit. There is a genuine need for the political-bureaucratic class to maintain peace, order and something resembling good government. But beyond the meat and potato stuff there is also the temptation to use government as a tool of enrichment. Since outright thievery is criticized by most people, excepting the thieves of course, an elaborate excuse is needed to distract the electorate from what is being done.
Say you're an unscrupulous, lily livered cowering politician with a bad hair cut. And let's say that you somehow get elected premier of a large and once prosperous province. Knowing that you have no real ideas, principles or talents you must bribe a large portion of the electorate to vote for you. There isn't enough to bribe everyone, and not quite enough to bribe the 40% or so you need to win a majority government. The solution instead is to bribe strategically.
You announce an increase in spending on health care. A very large number that is yelled by you and your minister of health. In a whispered voice you then mention that very large number is spread-out over several years. Thanks to modern public education few people, especially journalists, have the attention span to notice that part where you whispered the time frame. Even fewer will be able to divide the gigantically large number by the incredible long period of time. Say $10 billion dollars over 10 years.
Behind the scenes, buried in government reports that are written in something that is only technically English, the comparatively small amount of money you are actually spending is applied not to hiring more nurses and doctors, but to hiring more bureaucrats. Why? Because you win elections through warm bodies not through sharp brains.
Let's say I hire a whip-smart doctor for $150,000 a year. That's equivalent to the salaries of three or four mediocre paper-pushers. The doctor won't be all that grateful for the work, there are always sick people and American sick people pay a heck of a lot more. The paper-pushers are extremely grateful for their jobs since, in all frankness, many have the IQ of boiled cabbage and would be waiting on tables if not for the largess of the state. Not only are they grateful, so are their families. Let's say that each paper pusher has a wife and two kids. That means you have four grateful people, of which between 2-4 can vote. If the kids are both eighteen that means four votes. Keeping the ratio of three paper pushers for every doctor, that's twelve grateful people.
The electoral math is quite simple. Hire a doctor who probably won't vote for you, or hire three bureaucrats and get twelve loyal and grateful votes. Did we mention that the bureaucrats in question are all members of a public sector union? That a portion of their salaries are automatically deducted and remitted to the aforementioned union? And guess who that union is going to be throwing its financial clout and canvassing manpower behind come the next election?
Now repeat that same process over dozens of government departments, thousands of government agencies and hundreds of thousands of government employees.
It doesn't take too many brains to figure this all out. If public union leaders can figure it out anyone can really. So you need an elaborate excuse to cover your tracks. That's where the bullshit comes in. Luckily many people in Judeo-Christian societies have been taught that they should be their brother's keeper. In centuries gone by this meant, ahem, actually rolling up your sleeves and helping people. You know like that Jesus guy in the big black book.
Actually helping people is hard. It requires thought, planning and a commitment of time and money. If you actually hate people it's even harder since you may, unfortunately, have to deal with other human beings. So it's much easier to outsource your altruism. Luckily for you the government comes along and offers to take this burdensome moral responsibility off your hands. We call this ethical outsourcing the welfare state.
When some heartless bastards, Right leaning economists for instance, point out that the welfare state is an elaborate scam that hurts far more people than it helps, he is attacked as being uncompasssionate. We live, so we are told, in a compassionate society. But the welfare state isn't about compassion, it's about rent seeking and power lusting. To keep this pretense up the English language must be beaten, bent and tortured to within an inch of its life. The truth must be obscured at all costs. Words cease to have their meaning.
You don't spend on health care, you invest in health care. And in education, social services and anything else you can come up with. Including having a big party in Saskatoon. Because everything government does is an investment. Pity is that it's someone else's retirement plan.