Tag Archives: Canada

(276) Vancouver in a handbag

507px-Offensive-balloon_svgThis being the Family Day holiday weekend in Ontario we decided some cheerful and appropriate content would be nice.  Having failed to locate any we must substitute something from the don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry file.  A bungalow in Kitsilano for two million bucks.  That’s like 1300 ounces of gold for a wooden box.  The house looks serviceable and liveable enough, true.  Still, we would have thought that when the value of something was gamed, jacked and misrepresented from here to planet Neptune that you had fraud on your hands.  Apparently not.  If you know somebody who thinks Canada, or at least Vancouver, is not in a housing bubble they need to see this real estate listing.  Something historical is about to happen and this house is representative of where the culture is at.  This might have been a home for working and middle class people to aspire to live in.  Now it is an instrument of investment, an alchemic and magic ATM of sorts.

Happy Family Day!
2906 W 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC

See also:
(12) Crack shack or mansion: what does a million get you in Vancouver?

image: Mercury13 via Wikimedia Commons

(275) Brampton 2

Züm_Queen_Kennedy_NWThe suburban-poverty.com Lear Jet finds itself touching down in Brampton, ON …yet again!  The Toronto Star’s urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume continues to blaze a trail across suburbia a step or two ahead of us.  Hume is realistic, dry and barely contains his sarcasm in the land of clothes line bans and monster homes.  Locals counterattack viciously in the comment boxes, advising Hume to stay downtown with the other density-loving, latte sipping yuppies.  Almost the inverse of the previous posting’s problem this time the issue is a housing form with too much visibility.  A massive monster home grows in an older suburb.  The owner/builder wants his extended village-sized family under one roof.  To do this he has to go big.  It could get ugly.  Well, actually, ugly it already is.

The point is not what is going on at a single address in Brampton.  Larger issues present themselves.  Again, if this is the best the culture can do to get started working out the housing challenges of the twenty-first century then it doesn’t say much for us.

Now, where did we put our latte spoon?

Brampton monster home controversy exposes suburbanites’ fear of density

Monster homes are here to stay despite Brampton’s new bylaw

image: a taco establishment behind one of Brampton’s groovy new bus stops by Secondarywaltz via Wikimedia Commons

(273) Fighting fire with money

firetruckYour fire department is too large, over-equipped and far too expensive given the actual risk of you dying in a fire any time soon.  That’s pretty much what the item linked below in Canada’s National Post says.  This will prompt automated reactions of horror from many but it’s about time we had this conversation.  Resources are scarce yet fire departments in Canada are budgetary sacred cows, especially in suburban communities that tend toward political conservatism and a general lack of imagination.  There are alternative approaches to fire and hazard such as improvements to building codes and tough inspection regimes.  This is particularly applicable in communities where most of the buildings date from after the 1970s.

Interesting, even provocative reading for a time when municipal governments must make evey penny count as they adapt to rapid change and must find money for bringing their infrastructure and services into line with twenty first century realites.

The thin red line: increasingly idle fire stations a tempting target for cash-strapped cities

image: FaceMePLS via Wikimedia Commons

(268) Measuring inequality [Report]

The Conference Board of Canada has released a report on inequality.  Canada is a solid B grade according to the Board, a not-for-profit applied research agency which has been active in Canada since the mid-1950s.  The A-graded countries are clustered in northern Europe.

The United States received significantly poorer grades than Canada in the three major categories making up the final grade, coming in at a D.  Great Britain was further down the ladder as well, though a C.

Canada’s B is reflective of the geopolitical security the country enjoys and the income from its trade and mineral exports, less so does it reflect social policy.  The B grade, while not top-of-the-class of the seventeen countries looked at, is certainly a comfort to Canadians and has held steady for the last decade, a period of time containing a number of worrisome developments and events in the world economy.

When the reader enters the Conference Board report the picture darkens a little.  Canada performs poorly in regard to child poverty and poverty for working age people.  Income inequality in general as well as gender-based wage gaps and declining voter turnout remain frustrating for Canadians, with below average comparative scores.

The low murder rate in Canada and improvements to statistics for elder and disabled poverty helped Canada hold her B rating.  Certainly these are good things but the child poverty and working age poverty seen by some Canadians is a desperate embarrasment and fully indict the policies of past governments and the indifference to social conditions of the present government.  Interesting reading, the Conference Board report is being picked in the media fairly extensively and it is heartening to see mention of inequality and social difficulty acknowledged as being bad for business.

How Canada performs: details and analysis conferenceboard.ca

image: a “head measurer” for the use of anthropologists by AJN Tremearne via Wikimedia Commons

(265) Downtown core sees office jobs returning [Report]

It looks as if jobs may be starting to follow people back into urban centres.  At least, this appears to be the trend for the Greater Toronto Area according to a new report from one of the big banks.  According to its author, “New business creation, employment gains and population growth in the downtown core are now outpacing that in the surrounding suburbs, reversing a decades-long trend…”  Some 4.7 million square feet of office space were added to downtown Toronto between 2000 and now, according to the report.  This compares to 3.9 million square feet over the same period for all four regions surrounding Toronto (Halton, Durham, York, Peel).  These regions pursued aggressive economic development strategies that cost Toronto jobs and population over the years.  Banks, for example, were often found locating new office space and facilities in suburban areas.  Their work forces were also keen on living in detached housing in those areas.  The so-called Echo Boomers and Millennials, the future office work force, by all accounts, prefer downtown locations and this must surely also be incentivizing employers and office developers.  Interesting, …if worrisome for the economic prospects of suburbia.

Toronto – a return to the core 3-page .pdf file from TD Economics

See also: (261) A great inversion [Book review]

image: French postcard via Wikimedia Commons

(264) Canada’s 1% …again

Statistics Canada reported some data on taxable incomes this month.  The situation in which the so-called one percent of the country has something like ten percent of the wealth and that that group has done nothing but gain income for twenty years or so while mostly everyone else flounders has become widely known.  The recent data has been picked up all over the place.  Mostly, this good fortune of the upper income folks is reported in short items that last a couple of days online, as if it was a fact that existed in a bubble, attached to nothing substantial and evoking little more than a “well, that’s life” type of response.  That can’t be right …and we need to know their side of the story as well.

You had to top $201,400 to become a Canadian one percenter straight.com

Income inequality spikes in Canadian big cities ccpa.ca

image: Gravy boat via Wikimedia Commons

(263) Health & poverty downloads from Dennis Raphael

Poverty and inequality can wreck human health.  No debate there, really.  Without our health we are not fully the people we want to be, in our own life or the lives of those around us.  Dennis Raphael of York University has researched and written extensively about how Canada is, to be honest, in a state of underachievement in this area.  The second edition of his book Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life was very well received at suburban-poverty.com in the fall of 2011.  We recently came across some further sources from Professor Raphael and pass them on via this posting.

Professor Raphael discussed Tackling Health Inequalities: Lessons From International Experiences online at Griffith’s University’s Podcasts for Social Workers earlier this month.  He was the editor of this work, released in the fall of 2012, and in it expresses concern Canada has become a laggard in preventing avoidable, unjust situations that degrade health outcomes.  Valuable stuff… Podsocs Episode 38 37:05

Data from Poverty in Canada and newer material has been made available online in .pdf format.  Professor Raphael is critical of mainstream media attention to these issues and he hopes to go directly to people with his findings.  Here’s the link:
Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

Along with co-author Juha Mikkonen, Raphael seeks to expose the general public and mass media to the overwhelming evidence that living conditions (housing, income, medical care, social supports and the like) trump individual lifestyle approaches (cutting down on cola consumption for example) in determining who will be healthy or not.  Social policy in turn, which is deliberately chosen in societies like Canada, has a massive influence on who stays healthy.  This runs contrary to the view that we as individuals are solely responsible for our health and had hence better get ourselves to the local gym, credit card in hand.  If we are low income Canadians, it would seem our health is at risk from our social class.  This is even more true for children.  Internationally, we see the social democratic countries of northern Europe spending more to protect their people from class-derived health damage – and reaping a social benefit for doing so.

See a lecture! The Politics of Population Health
York U material from Nursing 5190

Also, a presentation at the University of Toronto on how Canada stacks up against other nations in providing citizens with economic & social security.
Vital Discussions of Human Security vimeo.com 80:49
Series of talks at University of Toronto 2011-2012

See also: (62) Poverty in Canada [Book review]

(262) Living in a van in Van

Well, this is certainly interesting …in a depressing-yet-designey kind of way.  A young man living in a Dodge van in Vancouver.  Turns out, he’s not alone.  Rents are too high, wages are too low.  See the link to Mathew Archer’s Tumblr for more on this reality.

Mobile Living: Vancouver Van Dwellers’ Nomadic Lives huffingtonpost.ca

See also: (103) A man’s home is his castle …and frequently also his shitbox

(258) Canada’s corporate cash pile

After decades of business-friendly governments it stands to reason that Canadian corporations are flush with cash.  Six hundred billion dollars-worth if you’d like to know the figure.  While it’s nice to be within what seems like the last reasonably functional western economy save Germany it’s also nice to dream about what that money coud be doing to not only keep things from slip-sliding but to actually make life better.

We do still care about that don’t we?  Remember, about ten percent of Canadians are in poverty, with a much higher number for children.  No doubt, there are good business reasons to hoard cash in the corporate vaults.  There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, the Americans are in trouble and so are the Europeans.  No harm in having something set aside in case times get tougher, right?  Thing is, all that hoarded cash represents corporate tax breaks.  It can’t be paid out in wages if it is sitting in conservative investments or general accounts.  Somebody needs to remind these big, rich corporations about Henry Ford’s five dollar day.

In 1914 Ford decided to undertake a little welfare capitalism.  Henry started plowing a portion of his enormous profits into marked improvements in wages.  Shocking at the time, the five dollar day was in the car maker’s selfish self interest because better off workers were better workers and many reinvested their wages in Ford products.

The stress and difficulty of middle and working class life is a cliche in Canada in 2013.  The federal government that dished out all those corporate tax breaks has warned of the rising levels of personal debt in Canada and predicts an end to overvalued real estate prices.

So, how about it corporate Canada?  Five bucks a day for everyone on the payroll.  Cash, gift cards, bus tickets, neck massages, benefit plans, courses, days off …we’ll let you pick the delivery system.  What is this, Soviet Russia’s second five year plan? No, it’s Canada where the people are sensible, even in the corner office.  Don’t worry corporate Canada, you’ll benefit, too.  Big time.

Reality not politics dictates cash hoarding
ft.com – see also link to paper from CD Howe Institute

Stop the Corporate Tax Giveaways
Canadian Labour Congress

image: Stinson Bakery (Alberta) bread token by Jerry “Woody” via Wikimedia Commons

(257) Offices & transit: will it happen? [Report]

Two of Canada’s major national media outlets featured items today about the nature of suburban life and economics as influenced by transportation.  The issue is the rapid of appearance of millions of square feet of office space in parts of an urban/suburban agglomeration once zoned exclusively for industry. Where once office jobs were downtown and industry near ports or in early inner suburbs and satellite locations (generally to the east as in most cities in the northern hemisphere thanks to prevailing wind) we now find office employment ubiquitous and growing fast near airports and out along highways and major arterial roads.

This shouldn’t be such a surprise, given decades of deindustrialization and the apparent economic advantages of sprawl, that employers put office space, server farms, call and data centres where once there were cornfields. Suburban office space can be built and occupied in a hurry and most jurisdictions, eager to maintain employment, property values, development levies and so forth are glad to have office and service employment over the declining prospects for manufacturing, against which there are other liabilities like air pollution, noise and perhaps a cultural loss of interest in making things, as well.

The Greater Toronto Area, with some five million people now, was the focus of both pieces.  One is part of a series on CBC Morning called the Joyless Commute. They’d hardly devote a week of air space to a topic not recognized by the listenership.  Many of whom are essentially forced to car commute for hours every week to office jobs many kilometres away and which are virtually impossible prospects for cycling, walking or public transit. The second item was also about the power of car commuting to far flung office pods, places often miles from a subway stop and served by low frequency buses at most. Curiously, the piece was front page in today’s Toronto Star business section. Not at the back of the local issues or lifestyle related parts of the paper.

Money talks.  Getting these issues wrong is going to be bad for business and make life diffcult for working people.

All through the 80s, 90s and 2000’s getting it right too often meant grinding into public expenditure, cutting taxes for the rich, privatizing and reducing services.  Now it means trying to bring millions of square feet of far flung office development into transit networks, reducing car dependece and pollution, providing appropriate infrastructure upgrades and general improvements to atmosphere and opportunity where our future workplaces will be.  Everyone is feeling the pressure, workers, managers, planners, builders, employers, investors.

Stuck in gridlock? Blame the office thestar.com

Joyless Commute Metro Morning on CBC radio – see thursday segment

Strategic Regional Research: A Region in Transition
Canadian Urban Institute link to major report

image: Zlatko via Wikimedia Commons