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Friday, March 24, 2006

An Immense and Tutelary Power

In 1840 Alexis de Tocqueville predicted the closely-monitored, statist sort of existence we now have in all Western democracies. He wrote that “the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world,” and about how such a regime “extends its arm over the whole community, and covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.”   

Here are a few experiences of just one citizen with the sort of things of which he warned. The first was my run-in with the Pay Equity Police under Ontario’s Premier David Peterson. It was the Peterson government’s “Green Paper” that first got me so upset about what was happening to my country. I called Premier Peterson. We debated the faulty logic of the pay-equity scam for15 minutes. At the end he said, “It’s just politics,” and ended the conversation unpersuaded that the whole scheme was a socialist-style nightmare from stem to gudgeon, an intrinsic attack on a free market in labour, and on the concept of private property, and would end up as a new kind of tax on everyone.

A couple of months later I got a visit from the Hamburger Police. In my business we had a small snack bar for breakfast and light lunches. This government fellow said he had done a survey of the cook’s job and also of the job of our maintenance man, and he had concluded that the two jobs were the same. Well. I hit the roof. The maintenance guy was paid about $35,000, had a gas licence, often had to go up on the roof in high and bitter winds to work, and so on. The cook was paid about $22,000. He wanted me to increase the female cook’s pay to match the male maintenance man’s pay. This scheme never went the other way. Male workers who felt “underpaid” as compared to some female class of workers could not apply for “adjustment.” Never mind that when we advertised for the maintenance guy, we couldn’t get anyone decent until we paid that much. But when we advertised for the cook about 100 people, mostly women, lined up for interviews. I told him that the food service was an independent operation within the building and that if we raised her pay to what he wanted we would have to charge $10 for every hamburger sold. The clients would obviously not pay that much for a hamburger. So the kitchen would soon have to be closed, and she would be out of a job. Take your pick. He left.

A year later I was visited by the Temperature Police. One of our office tenants, a terrible pain-in-the-neck woman who insisted on coming to work half-dressed, was forever calling me to complain the office was too cold. She didn’t know that one of her office-mates who dressed normally often complained, but much more calmly that the same office was too hot. Anyway, after a year or so of this, the half-dressed woman called in the Temperature Police from Ontario’s Ministry of something or other. Honestly, I was appalled and in disbelief when this sanctimonious twit came in, sat down, and from a little black case on his lap pulled out something he proudly announced was “a dry-bulb thermometer”. He had responded to her call, gone to the suite, and was now here to announce to the owner that the temperature in her office was indeed a half of a degree below the Ministry’s recommended office temperature. Well, first I told him about the woman’s office-mates, who thought the temperature was fine. Then I said, “Mister, that woman has been driving us crazy for a year. Her lease is up in about six months, and thanks to your visit here, I am of a mind not to renew it. Does that make you feel better about your snoopy piece of work?” He left.

Three years ago my wife and I were in the garden in spring enjoying the sun and the sweet pace of life at the farm. As it happened, we had just that day let our two white swans out onto the pond for the first time since freeze-up the past November. We keep them indoors all winter because they have trouble keeping the ice open and we don’t want coyotes to get them. Suddenly, in the midst of this peacefulness a brand-new Jeep Cherokee came down the driveway and two fully-uniformed guys got out. Two! By Golly, this was a surprise visit from … the Swan Police! They announced to us that according to their records we were “keeping swans without a licence.” Serious. They promptly served us with an inch-thick copy of the federal government’s Wild-Fowl Act, or some such thing, and charged us a $240 fine. We had not bought the birds.  We had agreed to look after them because our neighbour didn’t want them any longer. The annual swan-licence, which we knew of, but had forgotten to pay - costs $10.

I mentioned yesterday the Texas Cocktail Police, undercover agents who will creep into private bars and arrest people for being drunk. And the new Ontario Smoke Alarm Police – the law forcing all home-owners to install a smoke alarm on every floor of their home or pay a $50,000 fine. I think it is smart to have an alarm. It’s just the “immense and tutelary power” that de Tocqueville described hanging over us, invading our minds and everyday life, that unsettles me.

Posted by williamgairdner on March 24, 2006 | Permalink


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There is nothing so sweet as Liberty.

I wish there were a direct ratio of accountability and an equal measure of transparency to compliment the power all levels of government keep collecting to themselves and their agents.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-24 2:06:59 PM

Comcast High-Speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy


Posted by: P-ss on Klein | 2006-03-24 2:10:02 PM

"Alberta's PC Sins are being shouted from the housetops." sez Preacher pyscho.

I hear you shouting, Preacher, are you a housetop now? I thought you were Napolean's horse's hind quarters.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-24 2:10:58 PM

Corporate poultry/egg producers, in their insatiable avarice to monopolize their markets, have co-opted governments & its attendant bureaucracies.

Fascism in Canada. +

Egg farmer stands his ground in raid


Staff Writer

SHANLY -- A 10-hour standoff between federal food inspectors and a local egg farmer backed by 40 landowners ended Thursday evening when thousands of confiscated eggs and chickens - many dead or dying after going hours without ventilation or water - were released back to the owner.

Inspectors who raided the County Road 21 farm near the Grenville-Dundas County border allege Shawn Carmichael, owner of Carmichael Poultry Farm at 317 County Road 21, had been selling ungraded or improperly graded eggs and lacked proper registration for his operation.

But investigators were prevented from taking the confiscated property away and had to settle instead with dozens of bird carcasses and a carton of eggs to use as evidence.

They also made a commitment to return Carmichael's financial records after making copies for their purposes.

"Whatever happens to me (in the courts) will happen but at least I stood up and was counted," said Carmichael, a husband and father of six children, who sparked the standoff about 1 p.m. when he parked a tractor at the entrance of his driveway to prevent the inspectors from leaving.

"You get to the stage where you say, 'I've got to stand up for myself here. I've got to stand up for my family,'" he said.

"Then I see people who care and will help a guy like me. That gives me a lot. It makes me feel like I'm not alone."

Earlier, when more than 20 inspectors and enforcement workers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), accompanied by six OPP officers and agents with the Egg Marketing Board of Ontario, launched a raid on the property at 9 a.m., Carmichael and his wife Paula felt totally isolated.

He said his wife wasn't even allowed to get eggs from the barn to feed their children breakfast before the oldest were taken by the mother to school and the others to stay with their grandparents.

"My children have never looked at me like that before," said Carmichael, struggling to remain composed.

"They see the police and they think something is wrong."

He said he was stunned watching the inspectors go through his house, including the children's bedrooms, searching for evidence while chickens and eggs were being seized and loaded on a transport trailer and other trucks.

About four hours into the raid after the first couple of supporters from the Leeds and Grenville Landowners Association arrived at the farmgate where they were met by OPP, Carmichael got in a tractor and drove it to the end of a 300-metre driveway to block the exit.

The action set up a showdown that mushroomed as the afternoon went on until dozens of supporters, including Ontario Landowners Association president Randy Hillier, arrived with their familiar "Back off Government" signs and took up position at the end of the driveway.

The OPP responded in kind and eventually had more than 20 cruisers on hand, including several that established roadblocks at the nearest intersections, and about 30 officers keeping an eye on the activities.

For the most part, the police and protesters treated each other with respect.

Still, the atmosphere was tense and there were some dicey moments, none more so than when a farmer in a tractor came dangerously close to lowering a bucket on a police officer standing his ground near the entrance to the driveway.

Meanwhile, the work of the CFIA came to a halt as inspectors waited to see when they could leave the property.

At one point, a van drove up from the house as near as possible to the edge of the driveway where a waiting pizza delivery was picked up for the trapped inspectors.

For the supporters of Carmichael, the irony was too much and the taxpayer-bought meal became a focus of their anger.

As the afternoon wore on, negotiations between Carmichael, Hillier and the police grew more intense out of concern for the chickens, which were suffering from being confined in crammed metal cages without ventilation in the back of the truck. One Carmichael supporter walked back to the group at the driveway in tears after pleading for the caged chickens to be released.

By 4:30 p.m., when protesters threatened to march on the transport and free the birds forcibly, the CFIA and egg marketing board authorities began yielding to the demands to release the confiscated property.

At that point, protesters were allowed access to the trucks and they began hauling out the cages of birds only to discover many were already dead. +

Posted by: maz2 | 2006-03-24 2:45:15 PM

Comcast High-Speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy

Posted by: Fascism in Alberta diversion | 2006-03-24 2:50:45 PM

An open letter to the Shotgun.

Dear Kevin et al ~

I have over the last three weeks tried all the standard techniques I have acquired over the last thirty years on-line in an attempt to engage or dissuade preacher-man Paul. Sadly it looks like I'm going to have to admit defeat (nominally at least, for the next step in the proceedure from my end would be illegal, and I'm not willing to do that).

In light thereof, I humbly submit that it is indeed the time to invoke a technological solution to this problem. Seven postings in twenty minutes, all off topic. That's not about free speech any more, because that's not speech - it doesn't pass the Turing test.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 2:51:34 PM

Oops, I see you're already on it, the first batch are now gone. Unfortunately, it appears the automaton is still running.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 2:55:28 PM

Man that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I despise banning, even when it's the right thing to do, as became apparent in this case. I sincerely hope Paul receives appropriate medical attention somewhere.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 3:32:12 PM

Death to the preacher hahahah

Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-24 3:45:54 PM

Can it be true? Preacher and his multiple personalities are gone?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Posted by: Kathryn | 2006-03-24 4:05:19 PM

I doubt if there are six more Pauls in the whole world, ebt. As I've mentioned over the years here at the Shotgun, I've been "on-line" pretty much since there's been on-line, or at least since 1974. Yesterday I mentioned "Dan" from can.politics in 1986. I was a major player in the campaign to ridicule and ostracize JG here just over a year ago, but he finally caught on and the Shotgun didn't need to fire any defensive rounds.

Most memorable of all was one Mr. HS at comp.lang.delphi, which was the worst case because that was a technical discussion group where politics and unprofessionalism were generally unheard of. At some point I decided to invoke Bugs' "you realize of course..." law. It took a month, but when he finally went down, I actually got a phone call from the developers at a company abroad thanking me for finally saying what they couldn't (due to fiduciary corporate responsibility).

Those are the only two cases where I've actively engaged in an ostracizing campaign, but as you can imagine if you been at any public politics conversation site for a week, you see these sort of people all the time. This is a weird medium, lacking many of the bio-feedback mechanisms that are built in to face-to-face contact. It affects even those of us who are aware of it, and try to keep it in mind; imagine how it affects those are not even aware of it.

The reason I mention the above is to provide background for the magnitude of my observation, to wit, that I have never seen anything like Paul anywhere on-line before. Truly unique. HS, JG, RM, as absurd as they tried to be, and despite how majestically they failed, you could pretty much tell that there was an actual person there.

Now I'm not saying that Paul wasn't really there, only that in a way I've never experienced before, it actually felt like talking to an automaton. That's why I mentioned a couple days ago that the phenomenon was fascinating.

I've been wrong before, but I suspect y'all will be remembering the Paul phenomenon for years.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 4:27:11 PM

To my knowledge this is the first use of the word 'gudgeon' in a blog. Excellent!

Our growth as individuals and as a society depends on us moving towards two extremes - Extreme Freedom and Extreme Accountability. Governments are eager to take both from us; and a disturbing number of people are far too eager avoid seizing them when offered, and to surrender them at the first chance.

Posted by: Halfwise | 2006-03-24 4:37:12 PM

I apologize for hijacking your thread there, William, as you can imagine there's a fair amount of energy been pent up waiting for that safety valve to open; now that it has opened it happened to happen under you posting. There may be more of that off topic to come, for which I am partly responsible, so again, sorry.

Returning to the topic, the best summary of the problem I've heard was said by Czech president Vaclav Klaus, as reported by Arnaud de Borchgrave via UPI on 2003-11-25 (note the final paragraph):

"Last week, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU's budget. EU's auditors could only vouch for 10 percent of the $120 billion the EU spent in 2002. It was also the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole.

"Europeans are yet to face such "serious underlying issues," [Czech President Vaclav] Klaus said, because "they are still in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security, and which obviates the imperative need to face" reality.

"The biggest challenge for the Czech republic, Klaus said, is how to avoid falling into the trap of "a new form of collectivism." Asked whether he meant a new form of neo-Marxism, he said, "absolutely not, but I see other sectors endangering free societies."

"The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations," president Klaus explained. "We had that in Communist times."

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 5:17:35 PM

Oh hi, it's me again. It occurs to me that Vaclav's comment, and William's whole thread, actually play back into the Paul phenomenon saga in an interesting way.

The reason to go as far as possible not to ban someone from a pro-free-speech site is because it is a kind of regulation. We're anti-regulation here (I presume you've all read Ezra's excellent collection of essays, "The War On Fun", ISBN 0-9739514-0-8, if not, what were you thinking), so that should stick in our craw.

But it's not like those idiots who want to ban unpastuerized cheese; it's cheese, not milk. Stinky, dirty, nasty cheese keeps your immune system healthy. Adding more Paul wouldn't have improved the situation, adding more cheese always does.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 6:10:15 PM

Governments find ways of entrenching more and more civil servants on the pay roll.

If the left is in power it's usually to interfere with business, and the "job creation" they demand costs big tax dollars from legitimate business, thus killing an economy faster than a Muslim terrorist can blow up a bus full of innocent people on the way to work.

On the other side, if the right is in power, it often spotlights an interesting split between fiscal conservatives, and moral conservatives. A person could be one or both but the conservative designation has a split personality.

Fiscal conservatives tend to try to reduce govt, but the will of the people is always to vote themselves more goodies, so that tends to be short lived if people want to be re elected.

Social conservatives often go along with infringements of liberties if it's done for the "right" reasons, no pun intended. But big brother's eyes and ears need funding to keep looking and meddling in private lives so govt grows again. So does the tax burden to fund all that effort.

Ugly thing that. Govt growth, and the ????"necessary"???? intrusion into private lives. Via layers of intrusive laws, and regulations of course.

When the left does it, it's communism, when the right does it, it's fascism.

One says you can't own property, the other says Oh yeah, you can own property, but we get to say what you can do with it.

Posted by: Canadian freedoms fan | 2006-03-24 6:16:05 PM

"I've been wrong before, but I suspect y'all will be remembering the Paul phenomenon for years."
Posted by: Vitruvius

As a matter of FACT, Vitruvius, I recognized and remembered Preacher from the Canoe Canadian Politics Forum in 1998-99. It, the Preacher was irrepressible then, but I suspect not gone now.

Preacher has used up at least 4 IPs this week. I suspect that Preacher has a plethora of stock nics w fake e-mail ads and INVADES peoples computers using them as ZOMBIES to attain multiple launch IPs for it's comments. Think about it.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-24 6:17:34 PM

Yes, I remember your comment to that effect yesterday Speller, I responded positively to your comment then. If the phenomenon returns under the conditions you outline, then the problem is not only done, it is sealed and delivered, because then it becomes a mechanical terms-of-use contract problem. Once people actually start attempting to violate private property contract conditions, the law gets relatively simple, it's not about free speech any more.

Once again this brings us back to William's original thread. The solution to the problem of collectivist "contracts", with the associated hundreds of millions dead in living memory, is the mechanism of private *contracts*, with assigned authority, duty, and responsibility. And note, pure freedom except as limited by those volitionally accepted constraints in the name of mutual benefit.

The only problem with private contracts are monopolies. But the only monopoly left in Canada is government. And it has to be a monopoly, you can't have two city councils with neighbours choosing different bylaws.

Well actually, it happens all the time, look at inter-provincial bickering, but you get my point about government being the only remaining natural monopoly. Why do you think the only remaining successful unions are government employees? Unions exist to fight monopolies.

So we can't get rid of it, but the more have of it the worse it gets. What do we do? Well, this is a classic trivial minimization problem, we must simply have as little of it as possible.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 7:32:00 PM

"... I called Premier Peterson. We debated the faulty logic of the pay-equity scam for 15 minutes. At the end he said, “It’s just politics,” and ended the conversation unpersuaded that the whole scheme was a socialist-style nightmare ..."

It's not a socialist nightmare to them. It's what they do. Take away the socialist nightmare, you take away their whole reason for existence. That goes for the legislators, the bureaucrats, their business cronies, the Hamburger Police, the Egg Police, and the Police Who Protect the Egg Police.

I often ask myself this: in the end, what will convince Canadians that they've been screwed by their government? Will they snap out of their socialist dreams before inflation and taxes wipe out their savings, and they're standing in a line to so they can beg for a job working for a foreign-owned factory or mine? When things start scraping the bottom, will they vote for a Margaret Thatcher, or a Hugo Chavez? Stay tuned ...

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2006-03-24 8:01:16 PM

On the day Edmonton banned smoking in restuarants, 80% of the restaurants in Edmonton were smoke free, and 80% of the residents of Edmonton didn't smoke.

Well howdy doody, that sounds fair to me.

Meanwhile the sky-is-falling chicken-little nationalial-socialist wannabies were running around ruining the atmosphere at the delicatessan where I eat breakfast, regardless of the fact that 99% of the people there were tobacco afficianodos and the aroma of my blend of pipe tobacco was particularly appreciated.

But nope, the little blood-sucking parasites try to sink their piercers into every host they can find. It is only those who are willing to dump massive amounts of toxic chemicals on them that will survive.

Better living through chemistry, I say! More stinky cheese I say! We must drive them away as with onions and a wooden stake we drive away the vampire.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 8:51:00 PM

Oh dear, I've made a terrible mistake. It's supposed to be garlic and a wooden stake. You should have heard the uproar from the garlic in my kitchen. And then the onions got pissed off when I went to assuage the garlic. Man oh man.

So anyway I fried up a batch of onions and garlic in copius amounts of butter with a dash of fresh-ground black pepper and they're all happy now. They really do go together very well. Mmm, yummy.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-24 10:24:29 PM

Besides being annoying, pipe smoking is a sign of latent homosexuality.

Posted by: dan | 2006-03-25 12:07:03 AM

Again with your sexual issues, dan. You have a fixation fella.

Sex does not preoccupy most conservatives, dan. At least not the mature ones.

As a conservative subject, sex is usually about the social political aspects. Latent this and closet that is for the El Cubos.

You aren't an LLL are you, dan?

Posted by: Speller | 2006-03-25 3:53:02 AM

Wonderfull.....there is nothing wrong with applying rules for the good of the herd.
Give the ticks fair warning and then gas them!
Once youve done that go back to normal operating procedures. But be prepared to gas the next tick that comes along!

Posted by: PGP | 2006-03-25 10:10:19 AM

Nice to see William Gairdner on the Shotgun...a great addition to this blog.

On topic: It would seem that De Tocqueville's predicitons of civil/ democratic decay was most prophetic...particularly in Ontario ( the most over-governed, over-regulated jurisdiction in the free world)

I had to chuckle at your anicdotes about bumping up against the multi-headed hydra of blind bureaucratic dogmatism, but although it is humorous the extremes that come out in a government determined to micro manage every aspect of existance, it is defacto low level tyranny....sometines not so "low level".

I must admit a feeling of civil pride in my fellow countrymen (like I have not known for some time) when I see the agenda of resistance and civil disobedience the Lanark country farmers are offering to McGuinty's out of control big brother government.

For almost a decade I was slouched in a pool of gloom watching one insane regulatory regime after another become enacted by Federal and Provincial governments growing out of our control and heading to the pit of statist sefdom....all this time seeing no organized resistance to the insane expansion of the state...thinking that the flame of individual liberty had been extinguished in the breast of the average sleep-walking Canadian...I now have some hope that our nation can reclaim the civil/individual freedms lost to decades od fanantic bureaucratic empire building.

First we saw wheat farmers stand firm on principle and resist the oppression of the state wheat monopoly, then we saw duck hunters and target shooters refuse to register themselves in the rediculous state firearms registry fraud, now we see these small independent farmers from Lanark confonting the legions of regulatory barbarians poised to destroy land ownership and the small family farm with their uncivil regualting and enforcing.

Perhaps Canadians are not as easy to herd into the cattle pens of neo-soviet micro management as our statist lords of bureaucracy would think.

It is perhaps time both Canadian citizens and the governing class elite re evaluate the role of government....what we have in the 21st century will be either the reaffirmation or dispossession of 19th century core paradigms about restricted governance in free constitutional democracies. The question before us is not a matter of accepting or rejecting left/right ideologies but of deciding whether we are masters of the state or hapless servants of the state with the state existing to broker it's ever encoaching power to interests that best serve its own self perpetuation.

Personally I think its time big government was put back in pandora's box by a wave of civil disobedience and grass roots activism to make government respect the popular will and its constitutional restrictions in the affairs of private citizens.

Posted by: Wlyonmackenzie | 2006-03-25 12:33:35 PM

WLM: Please note the Egg Raid by agents of corporate fascism happened in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.

More here: Join the Revolution!


Copy of e-mail received. Paul Revere is alive and well in Canada, by Internet!!!!!! +

All phone tree people for Augusta, Edwardsburg Cardinal and North Grenville.

Contact your phone tree immediately, Thursday 2:30pm

Send members to the farm of Shawn and Paula Carmichael.
317 County Rd 21, east of Shanly.

CFIA, OPP and Ontario Egg Producers are there attempting to confiscate this families birds, eggs and computer systems.

All Landowners are expected to come and support this family.


Posted by: maz2 | 2006-03-25 3:23:11 PM

Speller: I voted for Robert Stanfield when I was 18. I own an oilfield service company. Having no sense of humor, and absolutely no insight, doesn't necessarily make you a conservative.

Posted by: dan | 2006-03-25 4:50:40 PM

The highest prices in the world don't stop Canadians from embracing their monopolies - how would Adam Smith explain it? We pay the most for milk, cheese, eggs etc. for no good reason.

Farmers hide their millions and plead poverty too, it's disgusting.

Farming is just too expensive for Canadian consumers and taxpayers. We need free trade in food, let our farmers produce the most expensive products in the world if they want to, but Canadians have the right to buy milk from the US - we should exercise that right.

Posted by: infidel | 2006-03-26 7:46:24 AM


Farmers are not making untold millions then hiding it from the government. That is a fallacy. Although you might see what you perceive to be a sharp rise in the local store, trust me, it is not getting back to the farm gate. It never has.

The price of wheat right now is at an all time low, less than it was in the 1960's. Meanwhile the cost of production is more than tenfold. The modern farmer is struggling to make ends meet, in what is quickly becoming a failing industry.

The price of any farm product at the farm gate has remained static, or only risen slightly for decades while input costs continue to spiral upward.

If you think Canada can survive if its agricultural sector goes bust then I want some of what you are smoking. It would be disastrous. There would be an immediate shortage of products, if you think the Americans or anyone else would merrily step in and supply said goods at a cheaper rate, again you are dreaming.

Then there is the problem of supporting the huge number of people out of work, or I suppose you would just leave them to their own devices.

The typical American farmer does okay because the American government sat down years ago and did the math on what it would cost the American economy if their industry fell through, (it was in rough shape down there a decade ago as well) and realized it would be far cheaper to subsidize their farmers and see that money put back into their own country than to let it fail. A very sound strategy.

You have no idea the linkage that sees most of what Canadian farmers earn invested back into the local economy, they are consumers as well, and large ones. Talk to any small to mid-sized town or city vendors and see where most of their income is derived from. It would be rural Canada.

So think twice and get your facts straight before you attack an entire industry. If it is so lucrative why don't you give it a try?

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 8:59:07 AM

I agree that most small towns in Alberta derive their incomes from rural Alberta. That's where the oilwells are. Very few Alberta towns could survive on agriculture. Taber is the one exception that comes to mind. That area has prospered with the help of irrigation and crop diversity. The rest of the province contributes little to Canada's food supply. When's the last time you sat down to a big plate of barley? The price of wheat is low because there's a huge glut, mostly rotting all over the world. The cattle industry has balooned recently, but is geared mainly to export. Most of the profits go to American companies, and wages to African labourers. Cattle ranchers hold huge areas of leased land just so they can collect lease revenue from oil and gas wells. About 1/2 of the farmland in the south is owned by Hutterite communes that contribute very little to the economy, and pay zero income tax.

I don't know about the rest of Canada, but Alberta's farming industry is nothing more than a welfare state.

Posted by: dan | 2006-03-26 10:37:46 AM


Another "knowledgeable farmer" voicing his opinion. As usual you know nothing about what you speak. I have gleaned from past posts you are from the east and have found yourself making a good living from the "patch" in Alberta. Hair on you, but not being from here don't be passing judgment on the agricultural industry and start spouting mistruths.

Agriculture was here long before the patch, and chances are will be here long after the oil dries up. I have a unique perspective as I am one of the large lease holders you refer to as well as being involved heavily in the oil patch as well.

Memo to Dan, I owned my leases long before energy was discovered on them, so one could hardly say I bought them simply to collect revenue. To state that shows just how little knowledge you have on the subject. I receive no revenue, only compensation for the use of the land, right of access, pipelines, etc.

Another outright lie is that Hutterites own half the available farmland and don't pay tax, in fact they own a very small percentage of total farm-land and they do indeed pay income tax.

When is the last time you sat down to a big plate of barley? How about when you and your crews are slogging back beer, where do you suppose it comes from? How about the triple AAA steak you treat yourself to, the envy of the world because we finish our beef on barley. I could go on and on but won't bother.

The biggest problem in the farm business is that Canadians and most of the western world are spoiled, and have been raised on cheap food and the perception it needs to stay cheap. Compare the cost of a liter of gas to a liter of milk over the past twenty years.

Somehow in this screwed up world, food has become the luxury that must be kept low while gas is the necessity people will pay anything for. Raise the price of gas 10 cents and people will scream from the rafters, but will budget and pay, raise the price of bread a buck a loaf and watch them riot.

Compare the average efficiency of the modern large farm, which has become very streamlined, compared to the inefficiency of most of he large oil companies. There is simply none. If I ran my farm/ranch the way the large oil companies are ran, or even the one I work for, I wouldn't be around a week.

I wish I had the money that is simply thrown away and wasted by these companies, just from the company I work for, much less the very large ones.

The only way this is possible is because of the very over priced value of their product, as opposed to the very under priced product from the farm. Of course most of it is exported, so is energy.

So before you slam agriculture consider that food costs in Canada are extremely low when compared to Europe and the middle east. And consider the fact you are enjoying your meal because many small and large farms are taking a kicking so you can keep eating cheap.

If the price of oil dropped to 6 bucks a barrel tomorrow we would see who the welfare cases are then. Working on a farm, or having any job might seem pretty attractive to you. But with your attitude I sure as hell wouldn't hire you.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 5:16:32 PM

Excellently argued, Deepblue. Well said. I agree with everything you said, more or less.

To riff off one of your points, the reason people don't pay for the actual value of their food is that the state is interfearing with the market. That's at least part of why you see people taking swipes at farmers, they're blaming the producer for the follies of the silly bureaucrats.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 5:28:18 PM


Yes, I absolutely agree with that, I am a poor typer so become lazy in espousing certain points of my posts.

The state is no friend to the farmer, in fact over history the state has enjoyed the old "farmers being peasants" to the state. It is something that has changed little over history, with the importance of food, and the production of it taking a very distant back burner in the scheme of things.

Agriculture lacks the one thing that has brought great wealth to certain sectors, that being unity. There is little question if farmers could bring a collective to bear on the market, things would be much different. But that is impossible in such a diverse and large industry.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 5:47:16 PM

There's a danger to the collectivist approach though too, Deepblue. Large collectives tend to become silly bureaucracies in their own right.

Whether it's government, or religion, or art, science, or business, or sport, the bigger the collective the sillier it tends to be.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 5:59:20 PM

Once again we agree, collectives are a leftist idea that is absolutely despised by most farmers. And why any attempts, and there have been a few, have been rejected.

The agricultural problem is not a new one, it has been around for decades, the question is, what do we do to fix it? The solution is not an easy one.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 6:07:01 PM

Well this is lame, but it's true: all the easy problems were solved long ago.

It seems to me that in order to restore the value of agriculture somehow we have to get people to appreciate the joy of eating again, instead of rushing off to watch television shows that would be demeaning to a monkey. This always brings me back to the words of that great sage, Julia Child (1912 - 2004).

Here's Julia describing her first television show: "There was this woman tossing French omelettes, splashing eggs about the place, brandishing big knives, panting heavily as she careened about the stove."

"If you're afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays," she said in one of her last television shows, "just put in cream!" she proclaimed, with a twinkle in her eye.

"Never be afraid to experiment in the kitchen, if it doesn't quite work out, just add more wine."

“Because of media hype and woefully inadequate information, too many people nowadays are deathly afraid of their food, and what does fear of food do to the digestive system? I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings.”

"Red meat and gin" was her rallying cry when the food world's puritans dared to promise long life through nervous nutrition, and [she] scorned grilled vegetables as "burnt and undercooked at the same time."

When [asked] to describe her guilty pleasures [...] she was sure to respond with her usual cheerful defiance, "I have no guilt."

“The pleasures of the table — that lovely old-fashioned phrase — depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.”

“Life is to be joyous, and joy comes from sensory pleasures shared with others."

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 6:18:29 PM

So true....

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 6:23:04 PM

Hutterites pay 0 income tax. They pay corporate tax after a very lengthy legal battle. They own 60% of the land in the county of Warner.

A large feedlot operator west of Grande Prairie once used the same language on me about oil going to $6 a barrel. I've been dealing with you morons for almost 30 years. Don't worry, I wouldn't work for any stinking sodbuster. I've seen low oil prices. I never got a penny from the government, unlike you whining fat sod busters. Big tough guy are you? Let's see you pull through a market downturn without crying me a river.

So give me your best shot tough guy. Your granfather probably worked hard, but three generations of you crying potbellied sodbusters have been on welfare.

Posted by: dan | 2006-03-26 6:29:29 PM

Apparently though, some people don't get it.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 6:34:29 PM


You are a contemptible, ill informed, laughable, and complete idiot. Your posts speak for themselves.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-03-26 6:54:38 PM

Whatever. You're a brave guy.

Posted by: dan | 2006-03-26 7:27:12 PM

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