Tag Archives: Edmonton

The clean-air report nothing but another “skies-are-falling” drivel

The air in Toronto is cleaner than the air in Edmonton.

Thus a study, dubbed “scientific” by Toronto-based national media.

We would have to adopt two wild assumptions in order to even begin considering it seriously, never mind accept it.

The first wild assumption: the study would have to be based on facts, not on so-called straight arithmetic averages; the data used would have to be verifiable and verified. And that would be just the basic requirements for judging the study.

The second wild assumption: we would have to assume that those who reported it knew whereof they spoke (wrote). Meaning, basically, that they were not guided one bit by the generally accepted misconception that a journalist’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Judging by the current mainstream media’s output, their instructors in sundry journalism schools never told the candidates of this craft that their job is to inform.

As a minor aside: why do these journalism schools exist in the first place? Story-telling and curiosity are the only two abilities a journalism candidate requires. Neither can be taught. The technology, laws, etc., these things change at least once between a journalism candidate’s first entrance into the hallowed halls of learning and her/his departure.

Equipped with a diploma, they are convinced that here they are, ready to change the world. They are nothing of the sort. Especially considering that changing the world is not their job.

Which brings us back to the clean air story.

To make it read or sound believable, our intrepid journalists started asking questions. Their selection of those they feel are fit to enlighten us is frightful. The usual suspects who claim (in the case of Edmonton, and Alberta in general) that it is the industry that is to blame, and the government is guilty for not doing anything about it, and, besides, car exhausts are a terrible culprit, as well, what with everybody and their dog riding around either in a pickup or, Heavens forbid, an SUV.

Short memories

It seems proponents of government-enforced radical change ought to remind themselves of several facts. These facts happen to complicate their simplified outlook somewhat, but, alas, that’s life.

Such as: even if we do accept the Toronto-based report and pretend it answered all the questions it was supposed to answer in order to be considered a serious scientific paper, there are a few unpleasant questions remaining. Not only about its methodology. About nature, as well.

First of all: oh, absolutely, we should not be abusing our environment, but mind telling, for example, the Russian taiga forests to stop burning?

It just so happens that for a number of decades running our atmosphere has been seriously damaged by smoke coming all the way across Santa’s North Pole condo, making the regions south of Edmonton within days.

Here’s what’s happening: the Russians let, on way too many occasions, the taiga forest fires burn out all by themselves. Forest fires, they say, with some justification, are a natural occurrence. They would only act if these fires came too close to forced-labour camps (yes, they still have them, and most of them are in Siberia). Russian authorities consider these camps a useful source of cheap labour, as they always have been. Might as well protect them.

There have been several other occasions, such as that the fires came too close to nuclear installations. That’s when the Russians would act.

Don’t expect for a moment that they would employ water bombing aircraft. But they would employ bombers. Russian (formerly Soviet) air force bombers stationed in those regions would practice carpet bombing. These bombing sorties would become part and parcel of military training, while creating buffer zones against the spread of the fires. What the fires do inside those zones, that, the Russians would tell you, was either God’s or nature’s decision, depending on that particular Russian’s religious inclination (or lack of same).

Compared to the inferno that keeps happening with regularity in Russia’s taiga, British Columbia’s (or Canada’s, in general) forest fires are nothing but small camp fires, used to roast meat, play the guitar or banjo, down a beer or two, sing a few songs and enjoy each other’s company. Not only that, we as Canadians feel we have the obligation toward both the forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. That’s why the best water bombers have been designed and built in Canada. They are used in civilized countries all over the world. Canada leads the field.

How about closer to home?

Now that winter seems to have left Edmonton for a few weeks, it took the city administration more than a month to wake up to the fact that a thorough clean-up job would be in order.

The system we have here borders on the insane. It may have even crossed that border.

If you, as a tax-paying citizen, have issues with too many potholes in your area, don’t expect city crews to be aware of them without you telling them. No, they are incredibly busy, and if you tell them, and are persistent enough to keep calling them every even (or odd) hour to remind them, chances are they will patch them up just as the leaves start falling and birds begin their journey southwards with the autumn coming in.

No, they will not fix them. They will only patch them up. Whether this is an attempt to create full employment in Edmonton remains to be seen. It looks like it.

The same goes, and now we come full circle back to clean air, for city roads.

After a few weeks went by without major blizzards, you could see city crews cleaning the roads. This is not to say they were doing a heck of a job of it, especially when they were watering the roads just as spring rains began hitting the place. Still, as a beginning it looked interesting. That, of course, didn’t mean that the debris left behind the watering cisterns would be swept away during that same operation. First, the water had to dry. Besides, you should give the debris a fair chance to enjoy the windy weather and do a bit of flying around, in order to see their neighbourhoods.

Then came the turn of sweeping away the debris from the grass along the roads. Where? Why, back to the road surfaces. Meaning: those surfaces that, allegedly, had just been cleaned.

Now what?

Now nothing.

When nothing had been happening for a week, an annoyed citizen called the city complaint centre, filed her or his concern, left her or his name and phone number, and got a call from someone in the city administration another three or four days later. Just don’t you worry, we’re going to get around to it.

When?

Ah, said the unnamed city employee (unnamed because he wasn’t told in advance he might be quoted for publication), anyhow, ah, said that employee, in a week or two. He sounded somewhat troubled when that citizen mentioned that, due (or thanks) to the last windy days it would make no sense for anyone to come to clean the road a week or two from now: the debris would be all in the air by then.

The city employee went on to explain that these things are the responsibility of two separate departments, as if two departments could not co-ordinate what they’re doing. And let’s not even mention the bold idea that cleaning roads in a city Edmonton’s size should not require two separate departments.

Feet on the ground

Of course, all this makes environmentalists’ cries sound somewhat ridiculous.

Get rid of coal-burning power stations. Stop using pickup trucks or SUVs. Solar or wind power stations are the answer. And so on.

It doesn’t take much research to establish that solar and wind power stations are one of the least effective (and efficient) sources of electricity. To put it simply: the energy these electric power sources create is way too expensive to even maintain the economic status quo.

Yes, the environmentalists would say, but if that’s the cost for healthy living, so be it. Is there anything to that argument? Turns out there isn’t. There would be more if these people were on record as saying that all of us should turn the lights off whenever we leave a room.

It just so happens that Canada is in the forefront of nations devising, building and using with spectacular effectiveness equipment to filter unwanted emissions from coal-fuelled and diesel-fuelled electric power plants. Except, it seems, the environmentalist crowd haven’t been made aware of it. Why they didn’t make the effort to find out themselves is another question.

How about nuclear power stations?

Well, they may be the song of the future. As soon as someone invents a way of safe disposal of radioactive waste.

How about power stations that use tide?

Another idea whose time might yet come. Perhaps as soon as someone develops a working plan how to control the tides so that the supply does not depend on the Moon’s mood alone.

The main issue

Here’s what the so-called environmentalist movement is all about: let the government decide what’s best for you. And you. And you. And, speaking of it, you, too.

Who guarantees that government knows best? Why, the government, of course!

There’s a world of difference between the science of ecology and the ideological movement of environmentalism. While it is a fine idea that all of us should contribute to keeping this planet clean, lying about the current state of affairs borders on the criminal.

Indeed, yes, lying.

How would you explain the cries that we’re entering yet another ice age just a few decades ago, to be followed by similarly loud cries (by the same people, too) that we’re going to burn, that’s how the planet is heating up.

And all that within just a few decades.

Of course, the real explanation is simple: none of these changes are new, and those yelling the loudest have obviously missed their high school science class when their teachers were explaining the basics of solar cycles.

What makes this even more dangerous is that mainstream media, ideologically blind and incapable of learning, ignores signs that what we’re dealing with here is frightful nonsense.

On top of it, mainstream media these days is unable (read: unwilling) to tolerate opposing views. It presents the terribly warped statements by climate alarmists as fact, while those same climate alarmists are laughing all the way to their banks, going to collect another set of grants for their more than questionable would-be research.

Speaking of which: how much have you learnt from mainstream media about the e-mail traffic within the East Anglia climatology institute? That would be the place that co-ordinates all of the worldwide climate alarmism.

Turns out a Russian hacker managed to break into the system and publish its content. Frank exchanges about falsifying basic data and conclusions galore. Has it made mainstream media’s front pages? Was it leading news broadcasts? And how about the fact that this doctored East Anglia drivel has remained the basis of the United Nations’ regular alarmist climate change reports?

An old fairy tale tells us about a boy who would shout in feigned horror that wolves were coming. He would have great fun watching his neighbouring villagers running out, their weapons at the ready, hoping to chase the wolves away before they got to the kid.

One day, as the boy was taking a herd of whatever domestic animals to pasture, a pack of wolves appeared.

The kid cried in horror. Nobody bothered to even look out of the windows. Next thing the kid knew, he was on the wolves menu.

Bon Appetit!

Edmonton filmmakers create a fine documentary

A face appears on the silver screen. In a close-up. The owner of the face, a Native Canadian, or a First Nations’ member, to be politically correct, looks straight in the camera. His lips start moving. This is what he says: “I am a psychopath.”

Thus opens the documentary film titled Antisocial Inc.

Commissioned by TVO, finished in 2014, 58 minutes long. Written, directed and produced by Rosvita Dransfeld. Filmed by Sergio Olivares. Music supplied by Donald Horsburgh. Edited by Scott Parker.

The audience at Edmonton’s Metro Cinema at Garneau gave the film an enthusiastic response, and deservedly so.

Of course, why it had to be TV Ontario to commission a documentary film made entirely in Alberta, by Albertans, about an Albertan, will remain a sweet mystery. Until we realize that Alberta, Canada’s richest province, somehow hasn’t what one would compare to America’s public broadcasting system. And the country’s public broadcasting network that one would have expected to be a logical outlet for such a documentary is in the throes of licking its self-inflicted economic wounds. It’s trying to figure out what to do with itself. No, you can’t expect the CBC to have either the wherewithal or the basic imagination to go after a work that is really and truly creative.

Simple story

The story is, basically, very simple: a kid is brought up in a rather unacceptably dysfunctional family that serves as his foster home. He becomes a drug dealer and spends a quarter of a century in and out of all kinds of jails and prisons. Eventually, he decides that he’s wasting his life. He does his best to turn it around. Along the way, he meets someone who used to be his childhood neighbour and who takes genuine interest in him as a living person. Having been a loner most of his life, not used to enjoying friendly relationships, but, on the other hand, used to living with the label of an anti-social individual, the hero (Chris is his name) has frightful difficulty with accepting any signs of friendship from anybody.

There’s no happy ending. There’s no tragic ending, either. There’s an ending that shows that life will go on. How it will go on, nobody knows. Least of all the hero.

It’s a documentary film as documentary films should be. It lets the hero tell his own story, it follows him when he is silent, it lets the pictures do the talking, and it takes us places most of us haven’t encountered. Such as jail cells in which the hero had spent more than a few of his days in his past, and which he hopes to avoid from now onwards, as long as he shall live.

This, in and of itself, is an optimistic approach.

The creators spent several years following their hero. He must have got used to their attention. He is not acting. And it’s pretty obvious that a lot of material must have ended on the cutting room floor. By the way, why it is called that when the technology used to record the story was clearly electronic, one can’t fathom. A cliché is a cliché is a cliché.

Luckily (or happily) there are no clichés in this movie.

Moving pictures

On a more personal note, I would like to talk more about the cinematography.

I have known Sergio Olivares for quite a few years. He has been working for Edmonton’s Aquila Productions, covering the Edmonton Oilers and providing wonderful footage for the series Oil Change. These are documentaries following the hockey club’s rare ups and frequent downs during the last four seasons. It has developed a cult-like following. Both in Canada (it airs on Sportsnet) and in the U.S. (it airs on NHL Network).

One of the outstanding features of Oil Change is its crisp, fast and furious storytelling through amazing pictures. It reflects hockey, the fastest team game on earth.

I was wondering, in fact, I was somewhat apprehensive. And I was surprised. Sergio Olivares subordinated his camera work to the story. His pictures not only told the story. They conveyed the emotions behind it. Without any of the modern camera tricks. This was storytelling at its best.

So, Sergio, thanks for inviting me to the screening.

An annoyed question

It has been a nasty habit of organizers of sundry moving pictures theatrical premiere performances to have the creators appear on stage once the curtain had come down, and answer all kinds of questions from the audience. Some of the questions might be intelligent, others might be perfectly stupid. They all have one thing in common: they are perfectly irrelevant.

What do these people expect? Do they want the creators to tell them about all the funny stories that happened on location, during the filming?

The performance either does make sense, or it does not. The creators either did convey their story, or they did not. They either did say what they wanted to say, or they did not.

And so it happened on this night, too. After the audience applauded Antisocial Inc. with justified enthusiasm, some of the creators were invited to come on stage. The room was filled with all kinds of intelligentsia, an unusual crowd for me as I try to avoid such circles at all cost. It was clear that the air would be filled with questions.

It was.

And then it happened. It was bound to happen. The question-and-answer session would sink as low as to have one of those intellectuals ask the producer what she wanted the audience to take home with them, having seen the film.

This was one of those people who, for example, do not live in a marriage because they live within the issue of marital cohabitation, who do not eat because they live solving the problem of consuming edible material, and who do not love because they are examining the question of emotional attraction between two or more individuals. You know this kind people, don’t you?

Anyhow, poor Rosvita Dransfeld thought she had to answer. She explained that she felt that labelling people is frightfully wrong, and for those who have been labelled in any shape or form, it would be preferable if they didn’t accept it.

Why not, right?

She would have been better off if she tore a page from René Clair’s book.

The famous French film director returned to his country from overseas after the Second World War. He made his first postwar film in 1947, Le silence est d’or (Silence is Golden).

When it premiered in Paris, the theatre was crowded. As the French say, tout le Paris. Rough translation: the who-is-who of Paris. Gentlemen in full tails, white ties, with their Legion d’Honneur pins and Académie française insignia shining. Ladies sporting revoltingly revealing cleavage (décolletage, as the French call it), showing almost everything to almost everybody. And the air filled with excited expectation and exciting scent of Chanel No. 5.

Into that, René Clair takes the stage. When all and sundry at long last sit down, he tells them: “Ladies and gentlemen, do not expect any deep thoughts. Do not expect any philosophies. Do not expect, Heaven forbid, any messages.”

After a few seconds of looking around, he turns to the microphone again: “I have only come to entertain you.”

With those famous last words, René Clair leaves the stage (and the building). Presumably to have a quick smoke.

That’s the page Rosvita Dransfeld should have torn from René Clair’s book.

Her film deserved it.

Commonwealth Games in Edmonton: another make-work project?

The city of Edmonton needs yet another Commonwealth Games like a dead person needs a winter coat.

And still, our intrepid city parents sent a five-member delegation all the way to London, England, to find out what exactly a successful bid should consist of.

Even if one agreed that government-organized and/or –sponsored Commonwealth Games would be useful to the city, and one doesn’t, why go all the way to good, old London? What’s e-mail for? With all kinds of new media that help antipodes talk to one another as if they were sitting in adjacent rooms?

Oh, the airlines have to make a living, somehow, and the international airport hasn’t been buzzing with as much activity as anticipated, either?

If we stick to the topic of Commonwealth Games in Edmonton: the plan is to bid for their 2022 edition. Whether the bid will succeed is another question. The South African city of Durban is the other bidder. If the organizers keep their heads in the politically correct sands by decision time, Edmonton hasn’t a chance.

Failure after failure

It wouldn’t be the first time Edmonton invested in perfectly non-sensical bids for perfectly non-sensical events. The 2015 FISU (International University Sports Federation) Games, or Expo 2017 come to mind as the most recent examples.

The Expo effort was the more outrageous of the two: the city spent a few million (U.S. currency, in case you want to know) to apply for the right to apply for an application for the right to apply to Canadian organizers for the right to represent the country in the international contest, where you (again) had to apply for the right to apply for an application to apply (to the world body) for the right to apply for the application to get into the bid process. Needless to say that each application had to include a non-refundable fee, and each of those fees had to be in millions (again, in U.S. greenbacks).

Why this merry-go-round? Well, the organizers have to make a living, somehow, too, don’t they?

What’s the point?

Those shortsighted (read: stupid) stupid enough to apply for such events claim holding them will improve their community’s prestige, image, even, and besides, it’s good for business.

Indeed, it is good for business. It is very good for the businesses of those who own the real estate where the events would be held, and it’s about as good for those who are going to build the venues.

Supporters would go on to say that such events also create job opportunities. They’re not lying. They’re just not telling the truth, and nothing but.

Short-term job opportunities at the bottom of the economic ladder? Yes.

Long-term job opportunities with the chance to climb up the economic ladder? Absolutely not.

And so far as prestige and/or image are concerned, well, a city that is unable to keep its infrastructure in good repair, its roads and other public places clean (meaning, for example, free of all kinds of debris), that city hasn’t got a chance in hell to win prestige and display a squeaky clean image.

We will all agree that Edmonton isn’t as big as New York.

Why is it, then, that New York’s public services are capable of cleaning each and every roadway in the Bedlam on Hudson once a week, every week, while entire Edmonton neighbourhoods have to wait for weeks on end before city crews come to clean their roads?

(There are a few additional minor questions of major proportion, such as: who is planning the cleaning effort, anyway? Just check out the city’s website for their road-cleaning schedule: it just makes no sense. But that’s another point for another day.)

Why is it that cities of comparable size (Winnipeg, for example) have their roads cleared of snow within hours of a snowfall, and that includes all neighbourhoods, and Edmonton doesn’t?

Spending like drunk sailors on shore leave

A look longer than a glance at Edmonton’s budgets gives you the answers.

In a futile effort to win immortality, Edmonton’s councils have been going after all kinds of events, investing money that has never been theirs in projects of such dubious character they don’t deserve any other description than that they stink to high heaven.

It’s megalomania gone bonkers.

To help fund a private professional sports club’s new arena using public money, now that is beyond insanity. It’s criminal. Why? Simply because all economic indicators say that what may make business sense to that club’s owner, makes no economic sense to the city at large. This information has been available for years. And ignorance is no excuse, either.

It has been proven, also, that even university sports are now getting more and more professional. How come? Who are the most successful university athletes? Why, those who had come to the hallowed halls of learning on all kinds of sports scholarships. Just note it: they are recruited and scholarshipped for their knowledge of how to shoot three-point balls, or pucks in the net, or any other popular university sport you wish to name. They are not recruited and scholarshipped because they know, say, advanced math better than anybody else in their district.

So, they are paid for their athletic abilities. Where does it differ from professionalism?

By the way, please note: not sporting abilities. Athletic abilities. Why? Because the only mantra they hear is that it’s all about winning, baby. Have you heard any loud calls for fair play lately? For sportsmanship, that is? Come to think of it, it’s logical. Potential rich sponsors prefer their names to be associated with winners, and who cares at what cost.

The basic formula is simple: investing taxpayer money in professional sports is a win-lose proposition. A win for the organizers and sponsors, a loss for the taxpayers.

Again: drivel about such ephemeral effects as downtown revitalization is just that: drivel. It just doesn’t work that way.

And drivel about such legacy as Commonwealth Stadium is just that, too: drivel, that is. Why? Who’s using it? Amateur athletes of all kinds? School children, by any chance? Kidding, right? A professional sports team uses the place. The effectiveness of use is questionable, too: how many weeks a year do the Eskimos use the stadium? How much does it cost to keep the place up so it’s ready for them when they return next spring? Who pays the freight for the maintenance and general upkeep in the off-season? The club?

Whether we like it or not, we’ll have to resign ourselves to the undeniable fact: sports at their highest competitive level are nothing an amateur can achieve.

And, whether we like it or not, we’ll have to resign ourselves to another undeniable fact: all and sundry international events, such as world-wide bazaars known as Expo, do nothing whatever to help the economics of their host cities at all.

Still, if anyone wants to stage them, by all means. Do. Use your own money to invest, though. If you reap any profit whatsoever, listen to the applause all the way to the bank. And if your venture didn’t meet with success you had anticipated, well, tough. We’ll watch your future endeavours with considerable interest.

Commonwealth Games is a poor man’s Olympics. Montreal has been paying its 1976 extravaganza for about 34 years. Vancouver won’t be debt-free at least as long as that. So, the only good thing about Commonwealth Games would be it might take us less time to pay the whole bloody thing off.

Do voters have a say?

If voters agree that this is a good reason why we should be spending our money on ventures like this, then there’s not much to be said.

But: has anyone asked the voters? And make it biblically simple: yes? Yes? No? No?

Most Edmontonians, one would suspect, would prefer having their city clean, courtesy city crews, their roads passable, courtesy city crews, their infrastructure working, courtesy city crews.

Granted, this is not enough to lead a fuller life than 9 to 5 at work, and so on.

But Edmonton is called Festival City for a reason. And, besides, what’s wrong with creating your own entertainment?

In any case, spending another chunk of taxpayer cash just for the right to apply to host yet another non-sensical professional sports event makes no sense whatsoever.

Whoever has come up with this moronic Commonwealth Games idea should receive an apron with a city logo, a broom with a city logo, and a wheelbarrow with a city logo. Then, they should be instructed which region of the city they should go and clean up.

Maybe that will teach them that life as it is has priorities other than taxpayer-supported professional bread-and-games events.

We’re dirt poor!

It came earlier than many would have expected, but it’s here: Edmonton hasn’t got the money it needs for capital investments.

And even city officials, Mayor Do0n Iveson included, concede spending taxpayer money to help build a new professional sports arena, plus the many bells and whistles that come with it, is a major reason.

The capital budget report council received May 1, was specific: there won’t be more money in the kitty for larger (never mind large) infrastructure projects than $30 to $50 million a year.

Now, granted, $30 to $50 million is a huge chunk of cash for anyone who’s never won LottoMAX, but it is peanuts for a city Edmonton’s size.

Expansion of the LRT was one of the three reasons cited; plus two other items: the so-called downtown revitalization and the arena district. These were the main culprits.

The LRT should not have been among them.

Why not? For a simple reason: expanded public transportation helps a community, while public spending to help build a private professional sports arena helps that professional sports club’s owner. That’s how it is.

Downtown revitalizations using all kinds of entertainment complexes have been found wanting in all of the case studies conducted all across North America. These projects have no other impact than helping those complexes’ owners minimize their investment and maximize their profit.

Profit is NOT a dirty word. It’s just that it ought to remain in the private sector of the economy. You invest, and if you’ve invested wisely, you gain a profit.

In Edmonton’s case, just as in so many other cases across this continent, taxpayers invest, but they are not the owners. They used to get promises what this or that will do to their community’s economy (employment increases, taxation income increases and whatnot). When time, the great judge, provided proof galore that this was spectacular nonsense, promises would change thus: public participation in such private projects would make yours a top-league community, it would boost civic pride, and a number of other esoteric statements. A number of sociological and demographic studies on this subject have been unequivocal. None of this would have anything to do with the community’s well-being, but everything to do with the private proponents’ well-being.

Again: there’s nothing wrong with entrepreneurs making money. There’s everything wrong with them, aided and abetted by governments of all levels, making this money with taxpayers’ help.

Craziness beyond belief

In Edmonton’s case, the situation is even more ridiculous than anywhere else. The sports club’s owner intends to build an office tower close to his new arena, and he talks council into agreeing city’s employees would move from the locations they’re using now to that new tower. That would boost its occupancy. Yes, leases in some of those current locations are about to expire. Not in all of them. Who’s going to pay for the transfer, in general? And who’s going to pay for the termination of existing leases, in particular? The office tower owner?

Besides, as many of the existing economic studies prove beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, it’s the office towers that drive the population from downtown areas to the suburbs. Just imagine applying for zoning to build a single-family house close to, say, the Manulife building, or Scotia Place. Building yet another office tower won’t help alleviate the exodus trend one iota.

Meanwhile, city property taxes went up by almost five per cent (4.92 per cent, to be precise). Considering Canada’s inflation rate was less than one single percentage point (0.94 per cent for precision’s sake) last year and it is not expected to increase any time soon, Edmonton’s property taxes have outpaced the country’s inflation rate five-fold.

If this is not a good reason for concern, one wonders what is.

To put this into context: an average homeowner whose property is valued at about $375,000 (nothing unusual in this city), will be paying about $127 more in city taxes next year.

Is the new arena still so shiny?

We do so need the LRT

There have been some, and their voices have been rather loud, asking why Edmonton needs another expansion of the LRT in the first place. In fact, some went so far as to suggest Edmonton needs no LRT, period.

Three cheers for economic illiteracy!

First of all, one of the most important standards to measure an individual community’s level of civilization is the level of its public transportation services. Not only because of such considerations as the level of pollution created by exhaust gases.

Let’s use a specific example: some are badmouthing the city for extending the LRT all the way to the NAIT campus. How do they expect an ever-increasing number of students from all over the place to make their way to the school? Are the majority of them rich enough to afford their own cars? Sure, if there’s no LRT, it might (but then again, might not) make used car sales go through the roof. Are Edmonton’s roads capable of accommodating such an increase in traffic? The answer is simple: no, they are not. Still, even if the city had enough dough (and we have just found it doesn’t) to expand its roadways, those students will have to park somewhere. Where? And who’s going to pay for it?

Please remember: growing numbers of students in such post-secondary schools as NAIT (or Grant MacEwan, for that matter, or University of Alberta, even) is a sign of a healthy community that is taking care of its future.

An aside: that part of the extended LRT will help ease transportation choke points in the Victoria School neighbourhood, as well as in the Grant MacEwan area, too.

We don’t need the LRT in Mill Woods, comes another battle cry. Guess what: you do. As the city population grows, soon enough it’s going to be impossible to get anywhere outside of Mill Woods in time if you drive a car and haven’t made the precaution of taking off at least a quarter of an hour ahead of time.

It’s getting perfectly scary during peak hours even now.

Yes, the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) calls would be heard less if the LRT went under the ground throughout. A more expensive investment in the beginning, but one that would have paid off quite nicely sooner or later. It didn’t happen, and this shortsighted approach might warrant another story for another day, but even so: even if the city discovered an endless supply of money, and was spending it wisely, Edmonton cannot continue to expand to cover the entire province of Alberta, eventually.

Whom are we paying for?

Alberta’s capital city has to make do with what it’s got, just like everybody else. That includes ignoring private egos such as that of former Mayor Stephen Mandel (or his successor in office, Don Iveson), and telling all professional sports clubs’ owners where to get off when they ask for (demand is a better expression) public money to help build their new arenas.

Here’s another piece of basic economics: if you decide to delay a necessary step, for example, by a year, because you haven’t got enough cash on hand at the moment, your costs that one year later will go up. Not just marginally. They may double.

Need an example? If Edmonton does such a lousy job of maintaining its network of roads as it has in the few years past, the cost of fixing the earlier mistakes will be there, together with costs of fixing new problems. More precisely? How about this: the city had a significant number of roads re-paved last summer. Whether they had no quality control or whether it was insufficient is not relevant. And excuses that this past winter was harder than many winters in previous years doesn’t make it, either. The fact remains: those newly re-paved roads need fixing, and a lot of it. Meanwhile, other roads, those that didn’t get the extended loving care last summer, need fixing, too.

It could have cost a bit more last summer, to do the re-paving job right in the first place. Now, it’s going to cost much more.

And the city is crying it’s on its way to the poorhouse.

It would be funny if it wasn’t that pathetic.

New projects will have to wait till the new election cycle (and, basic arithmetic suggests, beyond). Meanwhile, we’ll be pouring money we haven’t got into a pipedream, a.k.a. downtown revitalization, a new arena for the Oilers, to be more specific.

If we re-elect these rascals again, we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Oil Change bids farewell: only to the season? Or to its viewers, too?

Did you know 83 players dressed for the Edmonton Oilers during the last four seasons?

A shocking number or proof that the club’s management has been trying their darndest? Proof they’ve been working hard to find and assemble the best group of people to return the team to the heights it had enjoyed more than two decades ago?

Almost four full rosters, come to think of it!

That’s the question that pops into one’s mind as the last minutes of this season’s Oil Change documentary series roll by. It aired on Sportsnet Sunday, and will see its first series of repeats Monday, with more re-runs to come.

The final minutes show each of the 83 players get a few seconds of fame, with each player’s name and number of games in Oilers’ uniform in subtitles, with music featuring hints of Auld Lang Syne sounding in the background.

If this doesn’t move an Oilers fan’s heart, nothing will.

Except it raises a question. What is it, after all, this elusive chemistry the Oilers’ architects have been trying to find? What is this something that changes a sports club from an also-run into a contender, a champion, even? Is it really chemistry or, Heavens forbid, alchemy? You know, alchemists, the guys with strange beards, wearing extravagant hats, who keep trying to convince their kings and other nobility that they can change worthless raw materials into gold, develop elixirs of love and create potions that would enhance humankind’s longevity beyond any reasonable limits.

Oil Change does not ask these questions openly, but they are there.

This season’s finale begins with a visit with Ryan Smyth in his own, private and personal, trophy room. It contains all kinds of awards he’s won, And he’s won almost everything there’s to win in professional hockey, with one exception: he only got very close to the Stanley Cup once, but never touched it.

As it follows the last few weeks of the season that was, Oil Change’s subjects (players, coaches) see a bit of silver lining in the final weeks’ results and, especially, style of play. Habits, as head coach Dallas Eakins likes to call it. Whether they are right or whether it’s just another round of grasping for straws, only future will tell. And Oil Change deserves praise because it does not succumb to the temptation of becoming a clairvoyant. It only documents what those who should be in the know say and it accompanies it with pictures of what is actually going on even as the words are spoken.

What does it say? Words are nice but they aren’t worth much until and unless action makes them right.

There’s one interesting segment that might deserve a psychologist’s trained eye. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, two of the team’s brightest-shining stars, have been trying to find similarities and differences that exist between themselves. A fascinating exercise. Whether the two players’ judgments are on the money or not does not matter. What does matter is we can see how they perceive themselves, each other, and the team.

And that’s what Oil Change has been all about since its inception four long seasons ago. It documents who the people behind headlines (and frequent angry speech on Edmonton’s talk shows) are. To use a cliché: what makes the team tick? What is actually behind the infatuation Edmonton Oilers’ fans feel toward their beloved stars? For crying out loud, the fans must feel like jilted lovers again and again. Season after season lacks success, using a milder expression instead of the straightforward failure.

Considering that psychologists have defined infatuation (and early love) as temporary insanity, one can’t but wonder at the Edmonton Oilers fans’ perseverance.

As has been their habit all along, Aquila Productions’ creative crews have again come up with a gem of documentary filmmaking. They use narration words sparingly, depending much more on pictures, in a fast-paced show that reflects to perfection what kind of game hockey is at its top professional level, and who are the people behind it.

This season’s finale ends, as has become traditional with all Oil Change episodes, with the subtitle line: To be continued …

Will it? Should it?

There are several schools of thought.

One that believes that the creators have covered most of the topics that they could cover, and what they would be doing next season would only be repeating what they had been doing the previous years. Differently perhaps, but nothing new under the sun.

And, besides, people who support this grim school of thought would say, it’s always best to quit while you’re still on top.

A jaded view, that. Ask Edmonton Oilers’ fans whether they want the show to continue. Come to think of it, ask fans of good hockey programming, and fans of good documentary filmmaking, too.

If the Oilers continue struggling, only the fact they are struggling would be old. How and why they struggle still, that would be something new.

Another school of thought holds that a hiatus of about a couple of seasons might be worth the wait. This school’s students hope that, following this summer, the Oilers’ roster will be settled for some time to come, with only a bit of space for minor adjustments. Adherents believe that the real change will happen once the Oilers move to the new arena downtown. And that is, they say, when Oil Change should come back.

Yes, physically speaking, it would be a change. Whether it would be as major as some anticipate remains to be seen.

So, what is the answer? What should it be?

Here’s hoping fans (using all kinds of social media) will tell Aquila, the Edmonton Oilers and Sportsnet that they can hardly wait for the new season of Oil Change.

And, here’s hoping, too, that Aquila, the Edmonton Oilers and Sportsnet will not only listen to what the fans are saying, but hear them, too.

Meanwhile, Oil Change, have a wonderful summer vacation, get some much-needed rest, and come back refreshed, tanned, strong, with your batteries recharged and whatnot, for the delight of your fans.

What’s wrong with this place?

Considering Edmonton is the capital city of one of the richest provinces of a relatively rich country, one wonders: what the heck?

Of course, some of the issues are based on Edmonton’s climate, and blast the global warning nonsense. What matters is what Edmonton does with the two seasons it has. They are winter and non-winter, and it seems the city of Edmonton is always surprised when either of these two seasons makes its presence known.

With the winter now (hopefully) behind us for a few months, it might be useful to remind ourselves of a few unpleasant things.

We have behind us huge amounts of snow that were covering city streets with little if any fix in sight. Sidewalks that are the city’s responsibility would become increasingly dangerous because the city must have been of the noble view that it’s only fair to give ice a sporting chance. Whenever crews – paid by taxpayers – would clean roads of snow, they would leave behind windrows the size of the Himalayas. Roads would become narrow, one-way paths capable of accommodating a single bicyclist at a time, that is, only if he or she was careful enough to let another bicyclist pass by. Windrows at intersections would make entering the other road a hazard to traffic and pedestrians: you couldn’t see vehicles approaching from either side.

Times are changing and now we have (hopefully) arrived at spring, to be followed by summer (again, an optimistic estimation, but let’s accept it).

Snow melts, we ought to be happy, right? If we look at our roads and sidewalks, smiles freeze. Dust, dirt, garbage that lay hidden under snow has accumulated along the sides of the roads. Windrows take longer to melt. They create floods all over the place, some more dangerous than others.

If it rained more, some suggest, it would at least wash the dust and basic dirt off our streets and roads and sidewalks. An interesting proposition, difficult to test: Edmonton hasn’t got that much rain.

Then, of course, there is this traditional lament: potholes. City transportation experts would tell us that’s because atmospheric conditions (read: temperatures) keep changing so drastically.

Perfect drivel, of course. A road surface put in professionally and with proper care would alleviate much of the issue. As it is, we have road closures in the summer, so that crews can put new surface on. It looks wonderful and spiffy. A few months later, once the snow has melted, it’s filled with potholes. In a better scenario, the road is closed again next summer, for resurfacing.

A bit of stricter quality control during the original work would have been cheaper.

Considering how much city administration charges citizens in taxes and sundry fees, none of these issues should even exist. Using money that exists in city coffers, it’s not altogether irrational to be calling for minor budget adjustments so the city can employ people full-time, wages and benefits included, to keep taking care of Edmonton’s infrastructure 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

It would mean one minor change of major proportions: turning the city’s funding priorities upside down. No such dubious proposals as taxpayer support for a downtown arena for a professional sports club. These projects claim they’ll revive our downtown. They won’t do anything of the kind, of course. Diverting money thus wasted into useful activities, such as making and keeping this place liveable, would go a long way.

One can list a number of projects where the use of taxpayer money borders on the criminal. How about the harebrained plan to move city employees from their today’s work sites into a new, and useless, office tower, just to help its owner make sure he’s not losing money?

We had a mayor once who’d go so far as to impose fines upon a company that was fixing a city bridge and was tardy with ending the project. It would be paying for each and every day it was late. Yes, yes, yes, Bill Smith was no visionary, something some would-be enlightened people say is a category to which Stephen Mandel and Don Iveson belong. Bill Smith was only making sure taxpayers’ money wouldn’t be wasted. How perfectly pedestrian.

This is rather difficult to fathom: how is it possible that Canadian cities of similar size and climate comparable to Edmonton’s, have found ways to keep their roadways clear of snow throughout their long winters, and that includes residential roadways, also? How is it possible that when spring springs upon them, their neighbourhoods are clean and free of all kinds of garbage and sundry debris? How do they do it, keeping their roads relatively pothole-free?

To put it simply: what are they doing right and Edmonton is doing wrong?

Should our city parents try to learn a lesson or two? And, much more importantly, are they capable of doing it?

Judging by their efforts thus far, one has serious doubts.

Who’s to blame?

We are. We voted them in.

Edmonton’s fata morgana

An office tower and a hotel will revitalize Edmonton’s downtown. That’s what proponents of taxpayer-supported new arena for the Edmonton Oilers are trying to make us believe.

Why and how, they don’t say. We ought to believe in the tooth fairy, too, perhaps. Their reasoning is difficult to fathom, and no logical explanation has been forthcoming. Next time, perhaps.

Meanwhile, a mirage of Sahara desert proportions will keep us linked to Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz through an invisible umbilical cord. We’re going to be the mothers. He would be the embryo we’re going to feed.

It was bound to happen. As part of the highly suspect deal that has the city of Edmonton involved in building a private entrepreneur’s playground, taxpayers will be on the hook for moving their employees from their present location to a brand new office tower that Daryl Katz proposes to build downtown.

To Daryl Katz the new tower is supposed to be a cash cow. Based on his experience with Edmonton’s city council, he now knows where to find ready cash, neatly packaged and bundled, in no particular numerical sequence, so he can just pick it up and laugh all the way to the bank.

That’s what this deal is all about. The shovel hasn’t hit the ground yet, and the tower already has tenants galore. Who? We are the tenants. We as in we, the taxpayers. Wonderful.

How an office tower and a hotel can pretend to be places where people gather to enjoy their leisure time? That’s a question nobody has seemed to ask yet.

Let’s go back to the basics

Daryl Katz wants his Oilers to have a brand new arena. He’s of the view that he can’t build it all by himself. Despite being listed all over the place as one of the richer (if not richest) people in the country, he wants the taxpayers to kick in.

Why?

Because, he claims, the new arena will help revitalize the downtown area of Edmonton.

How? Somehow.

Let’s forget the question whether the Oilers really need a new arena. In all generosity, let’s accept this wish for a fact. After all, Rexall Place, formerly a.k.a. Northlands Coliseum, is an old building. It will turn 40 this coming November. It cost just above $17 million to build, about $81 million in today’s money. If we accept the publicly budgeted $450 million as the price tag for the new arena (and only a perfect fool would accept that amount), its bells would have to be closing in on 24 karats, pure gold, that is. And its whistles would have to be 100-carat diamonds. (Note: there’s a world of difference between karats and carats. You can look it up. The former describes purity of gold, the latter, gemstone mass.)

Anyhow, the Oilers’ owner says he needs a new arena. The almost-40-year-old building no longer suffices.

Let’s put aside the fact that if a 40-year-old building really is as decrepit as some proponents of the new arena claim, it doesn’t speak too well of North American building industry in general, and of Edmonton’s building industry in particular. Considering there are buildings aged centuries all over the world, still in overwhelmingly good shape and serving people, the comparison is shocking.

Of course, there’s another angle to consider: economic case studies after economic case studies after economic case studies show that professional sports organizations’ owners are wont to call 30-year-old stadia too old. They do so especially in cases where they had managed to get the original structures built with taxpayer participation. Now, they’re coming for seconds. The points they make are repetitive to the point of being boring: they claim that they want to revitalize whatever area they want to use. Except: economic case studies after economic case studies after economic case studies show those new buildings might attract visitors (not permanent residents) only as a consequence of what has been dubbed as “novelty effect.” There’s no permanency.

Downtown areas throughout the world, not only in North America, have been suffering for quite some time now. Office towers and sundry such buildings are not people places. They have pushed people as living creatures out. People who used to live there have been moving out to the suburbs. Once they have matured to the point of getting married and starting families, they prefer living in their own homes rather than condominia or rental apartment buildings.

The facts are simple: a new attraction, such as a new sports arena, with all the attendant bars and restaurants and whatnot around it, may slow down emigration from downtown for a few years. It will not stop it. And it will not reverse it, either. In fact, once the novelty effect wears off, the emigration returns to its previous levels.

Why oh why?

Why Edmonton city council bought into the downtown revitalization bluff in the first place will remain an enigma wrapped in mystery. It may very well happen that some intrepid forensic accountants will tell us in the not-so-distant future that not everything had been above board, but for now, this is pure speculation.

The only certainty we have here is that this city’s taxpayers are supposed to be on the hook up to their teeth for a private entrepreneur’s private playground.

And now, the city will be involved in a new office tower by moving its employees whence they’ve been working thus far into new digs.

Some say the city (its taxpayers, that is) will save money on this deal. Saying it is one thing. Proving it is another. Where’s the beef?

If the new idea is so incredibly beneficial, why did councillors have to debate it for hours on end behind closed doors? One would have expected such beneficial ideas to be aired with as many employers (taxpayers, that is) present.

Even the report that councillors would vote on remains secret. The only thing we know that the vote went 10 to three for.

And we also know that a former journalist (and city columnist) for the Edmonton Journal  heaps praise on the whole thing, without mentioning the details but once. Since it’s the details that matter, it’s rather surprising how low could a former intrepid reporter stoop.

City employees have been working in city-owned structures that, the city says, need renovations. Some city employees work in leased spaces, and the deals are coming up for renewal next year.

How are the savings going to happen? First and foremost, we are told that working space would be used more efficiently. Meaning: each employee will have less shoulder room. How’s that for efficiency?

The palatability quotient

Daryl Katz has been quite open about the fact an office tower would make his arena plan more palatable. For whom? Guess three times.

Here’s an interesting fact: the city has received more than a dozen proposals just last spring from potential landlords who had been hoping to house city staff in new and existing buildings.

But no, we need a new office tower. Not only spanking new, but also potentially the tallest such structure in the neighbourhood.

Some developers are licking their fingers: the new office tower would be the first swallow of the spring. It would signal the arrival of more such towers in the near future.

If anyone thinks building office towers downtown spells downtown revitalization, they’re dreaming in Technicolor.

One wonders what would have happened if city council was more responsible and told Daryl Katz that if he wants to build himself a new arena, here’s the development permit office, file your plans, pay the fees and build it.

Some have feared the Oilers’ owner would pick his toy and go to find himself another sandbox. Not only would it have been wise to remind him we had a similar experience with a former Edmonton Oilers’ owner, and look where he is now. It would have been prudent to call his bluff.

But no. City streets are close to impassable because city council has not the wherewithal to make sure crews keep them clean 24 hours a day, seven days a week. City infrastructure has been crumbling for years, closing in on decades.

But city council is spending money that isn’t its own on dubious projects that make no other sense than saving a local entrepreneur a pretty bundle while doing nothing to revitalize downtown.

We voted this gang in. Judging by election numbers, quite a few voters chose not to turn out and exercise their basic civic right. Things wouldn’t change if we voted, anyhow, many of them said.

Well, things will not change. You didn’t vote. That’s why they won’t. And that’s a shame.

Who wins or loses on the ice? What came first: chicken or egg?

It’s bad form. Improper. Not done. All nibs are agreed on it. Do NOT do it, for heaven’s sake!

Right?

So, here it comes: a disclaimer.

I have never received a cent, I am not receiving a cent, and I do not anticipate or expect receiving a cent from the Edmonton Oilers.

Why should I be doing what all nibs agree on that I shouldn’t be doing? Well, and why should I not call myself a nib, too?

Anyhow, here’s the reason for the disclaimer: contrary to popular opinion, I insist that Kevin Lowe and/or Craig MacTavish are NOT the main culprits behind the Oilers’ freefall of the last several seasons.

Yes, fish start stinking from their heads down, but this is not the case with the Edmonton Oilers. Not altogether, that is.

Ladislav Smid had it right when he said a few days before being traded to Calgary (he said it publicly, too) that it’s not the management, and it’s not the coaching, either. The issues the Oilers have, he said, are in the room.

Most interestingly, head coach Dallas Eakins, speaking dejectedly and somewhat angrily after the home-ice 6-0 debacle the Oilers suffered in the hands of the St. Louis Blues, said the same thing. He would elaborate, but the gist was exactly the same. It’s in the room.

Here are some facts

As of this writing, the Oilers have played 38 regular season games. In an informal survey among players from 21 of the about 30 teams the Oilers had skated against, one common denominator emerged. When promised complete anonymity, opposing players revealed what their coaches tell them during pre-game video sessions. The Oilers are perfectly vulnerable because of their erratic forecheck.

“They have one guy forechecking, and then three, and then two, and all that on the same shift, and the way they do it shows no rhyme or reason for how they forecheck,” said one.

“It seems the Oilers have no system, or if they have one, they don’t play within it,” said another.

Oilers’ forward David Perron bristled when he heard about the talk that the Oilers have no system. They do, he told Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But, he would concede, they do not play within it often enough.

What could be the reason for that?

“Some of them seem to think they are smarter than their coach,” suggested yet another opposing player.

Are they?

“No,” replied that player, “and their results prove it.”

And yet another opposing player chimed in: “Look, what Lars Eller (of the Montreal Canadiens) said about the Oilers playing like a bunch of juniors, well, he shouldn’t have said that.”

Why not?

“It shows a bit of disrespect. Lack of respect for your opposition not only can come back to bite you, but it’s also unsportsmanlike. Except,” he added, “Eller definitely isn’t the only player who thinks that.”

And, they all said independently of one another (but if they were in one room, it would have sounded as if they were speaking in unison), it’s the Oilers’ first and second line players who are the most guilty part.

“These guys are talented and skilled, no doubt about that,” an opposing defenceman said, “and you have to be on your toes whenever they are on the ice, but despite all that ability and skill and creativity, they have become quite predictable.”

Ouch!

“It’s more players than just the first line,” another opposing player, also a defenceman, suggested. “The Oilers seem to be building around a potential core, but on occasion, that core seems to be rotten.”

HUH?

“You know how it is. You bite into an apple that looks shiny and colourful on the surface, but inside, it isn’t,” he explained.

There were other observations, too. Some of them damning. Such as that the so-called core (or future core, if you wish) hasn’t really embraced the existence of Nail Yakupov.

Having watched a few games after hearing this statement, one begins to wonder. It’s called body language, and – how to put it politely – well, it seems that the player who made this observation wasn’t wrong. Whether it’s subconscious or knowing on the “core” players’ part is irrelevant.

Who is the guilty party then?

Can you blame Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish for these woes?

Here’s your simple answer: no.

And here’s your more involved answer: no.

Let’s try to take a more detached look.

First, there’s this thing known as context of history.

Most Oilers’ fans feel betrayed that their beloved club has been doing so poorly. They seem to forget that all hasn’t been sunshine and glory for (at least) two decades. Remember, before the salary cap, the Oilers served almost as a farm team to their richer NHL counterparts. They would develop a young, up-and-coming player to the level bordering on stardom. That’s when that player would feel free to begin demanding more money in his new contract. The Oilers wouldn’t have it. What would they do? They would trade away the budding star, and get in exchange someone whose salary they might be able to afford. The newcomer would be either worse than the dearly departed budding star, or it would be a youngster whom the Oilers would develop – and lose again within a few seasons.

Talk about re-building!

The early Oilers lucked out. They would get Wayne Gretzky because his previous owner, Nelson Skalbania, needed ready cash, and he needed it now. The Oilers’ then-owner, Peter Pocklington, was ready to oblige, but he didn’t have sufficient funds to pay in cash the full amount Skalbania asked for. So, he threw a few paintings in. Art Skalbania would be able to sell and thus get the missing dough.

Their first few years at the draft, they would hit several homeruns by getting, in no particular order, Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri.

Compared to today’s standards, Barry Fraser’s ways of picking players to be drafted were highly unscientific, and Glen Sather would go with them because they had been successful.

Successful? Yes, to a degree. There were some unforgettable flops, too. Jason Bonsignore, anyone? Or how about picking Steve Kelly instead of Shane Doan?

Between them, Sather and Lowe can’t say their drafting record has had no blemishes. Steve Tambellini had an easier time of it, selecting first three consecutive seasons, even though some question why the Oilers would go after forwards who might have been talented and skilled and whatnot, when there were NHL-ready defencemen of relatively high calibre available, too. Seth Jones, anybody?

So, granted, all regimes made their share of mistakes. But here’s an interesting point: you only make no mistakes if you don’t do anything.

Basic economics

One of Edmonton’s basic limitations is the size of its market potential. A successful professional sports team is, first and foremost, a success when it breaks even, at least. Very rarely would you find a professional sports team in such a limited market recording too much surplus. Yes, the Oilers haven’t lost money as of late. They even made some. But not enough to trade for a bona fide star and pay him accordingly.

Edmonton is a proud home to two former professional sports champions (remember the Eskimos?). Edmonton’s fans can fill both teams’ stadia game in and out, no problem. Except, this no longer suffices. Neither in the CFL nor (and even more so) in the NHL.

Some of it is geography, some of it is the tradition of electing asinine city councils.

Asinine? You bet. You can’t call decisions that endanger a city’s economy anything but that.

An example?

How about that ruling decades ago that whichever flight is headed to the then-newly-built Edmonton International from any place north of Edmonton, including northwest or northeast, it has to land at city airport first, then take off, fly another few minutes, and land in Leduc?

It would be convenient for those who want to conduct their business downtown was the official explanation.

Utter nonsense, of course. City airport had been here long before the international airport was even conceived, and a number of businesses moved to the city airport area expecting brisk action. Owners of those businesses were not only voters, but some of them might have even contributed to individual candidates’ campaigns.

Tradition? History? Who speaks of tradition and history when dollars are at stake?

Except, many of those flights that only intended to have an intermediate landing in Edmonton, on their way to Calgary or elsewhere, changed their routings. (Notice: they would be fine with one landing. Not two. One.) When they found successive city councils could not be swayed, those flights would simply go directly to Calgary or elsewhere, without any landings in Edmonton.

And there went the idea of Edmonton as the north’s airline hub and gateway to Canada’s north, and whatever else you wish to call it.

Anyone who thinks this kind of decisions helped grow Edmonton’s economy (as well as the economies of the capital region) is dreaming in Technicolor.

But professional sports clubs need more than income from seat sales. They need to sell sponsorships and advertising. Such deals must be available for use both in-house and for their broadcast rights holders. With a limited market, what chances are there that the clubs would generate enough advertising and sponsorship income to be able to pay for their high-priced stars?

Yes, stars attract fans like bees to honey, but, not only is there a limit on the number of fannies clubs can accommodate in their facilities, there is also a limit on how much they can charge their fans for the pleasure.

Is that something Kevin Lowe and/or Craig MacTavish generated?

Again, the answer is simple: no.

Management record

Many fans contend Oilers’ management could have and should have brought in more real players (preferably stars, one assumes) through trades and/or free agent signings.

Could they have? And should they have?

We will not know the answer to the former question. Trade negotiations are conducted in full secrecy worthy of nuclear war planning sessions. Many reasons, most of them perfectly valid.

We do know the answer to the latter question. It’s yes. Absolutely, Definitely. And add your own list of players whom you’d like to see wearing Oilers’ colours and turning the club’s fortunes around.

Except, this is where the answer to the former question enters the picture. Could they have? Were players they thought might be of major help available? Were they willing to waive their no trade/no movement clauses to go to Edmonton? Did their current clubs ask for players in return that the Oilers wouldn’t part with, at least, not yet, or not now?

What this is to say is that it’s rather impossible to judge a professional sports club’s record on what kind of players management managed to acquire. Even in drafts. When you’re picking among 18-year-olds, it’s as unreliable as defining the sex of freshly hatched chickens.

And so far as free agent signings are concerned, they have got some lately, and they haven’t panned out that bad. Andrew Ference comes to mind, and so does Boyd Gordon.

So, you may ask, why have other teams been more successful than the Oilers? What gives THEIR management that invisible something that the Oilers’ management seems to lack?

Back to square one

Judging by the remarks made by those opposing teams’ players, it seems that the Oilers’ top players have been reading too much into their press clippings. Yes, these clippings tell all and sundry that they are talented and skilled and whatnot. What they do NOT say is that these guys are the second coming, that they are right up there, with sliced bread and the original Swiss-made Nestle chocolate.

They should come back to earth, and pronto.

As it is, they are endangering the business model a.k.a. the Edmonton Oilers. How much longer will Oiler fans endure such blatant lack of success? How optimistic can these fans be? Meaning: how stupid are they expected to be, selling the Oilers’ arena out every night?

Any solutions?

Not really. But one school of thought is interesting. Here’s the outline.

Rid the Oilers of their owner, first of all. Why? Because he’s too closely connected with his management team as friends and would hesitate to clean house.

A new owner, unconnected to the club thus far, would have no such hesitations.

Would it be fair?

Absolutely not.

Would it help?

Who knows.

Yes, the school of thought continues, the current Oilers’ top poohbahs know a lot about winning. They have won it all. Indeed they have. As players. And it’s a different matter to win as a manager.

Of course, as an aside, Craig MacTavish coached the Oilers to within one game seven goal of the Stanley Cup (empty netters don’t count), and it’s difficult to believe that he’s become a moron between then and now.

And, also of course, fans assign responsibility based on their years of suffering, not on the time in responsible office guys they criticize have spent.

The school of hard knocks is also of the view that amateur scouts should be fired every five years. We’re talking about the people who are supposed to find new talent for a club to pick up on draft day or get some other way. It’s a tough life, schlepping all season long from one junior barn to another, trying to find a gem nobody else notices, getting as much relevant information on players who you think might help your club without giving your interest away to competition. They must be burnt out after all these years, thus this school of thought.

Is there any truth in it? Who knows? Nobody’s asked the amateur scouts, and even if one were to ask them, they would deny being tired in the slightest, lest they lose their jobs.

In any case, would such (admittedly cruel) kind of rotation work? Nobody’s tried, and experience shows that, for example, the Detroit Red Wings’ amateur scouting has been tops for a convincing period of time, and yet, you wouldn’t see too many changes through the years.

Again, this is a result-based and result-oriented business. So, the answer to this question must differ from club to club.

The single question remains: who wins the games? And who loses them?

If you’ve figured the answers to this question, you know who is responsible for the Edmonton Oilers’ woes and who can fix them.

Is it easy to do?

No.

Is it doable?

Yes.

City of Edmonton ought to be ashamed. Very ashamed!

Members of Edmonton city council (and employees within city administration) shouldn’t be allowed to roam free. They should be sitting in closed departments of psychiatric asylums.

Yes. The lot of them.

It snowed in Edmonton a week or two ago, and most neighbourhood roads are still impassable. The city makes huge announcements about neighbourhood blading, but guess what: most of the roads are still impassable.

Of course, a snowfall in Edmonton is such a rare occurrence, no wonder the city has been caught (again) with its pants down.

It is perfectly strange that a city of comparable size and climate (Winnipeg comes to mind) can have all of its roads AND sidewalks cleaned within 24 hours. It is even stranger that a city much bigger in size (Montreal comes to mind) can have its roads AND sidewalks cleaned within 24 hours.

In fairness, let’s not include Toronto in this equation. The place where the Earth will be getting its suppositories if and when it needs them, demands that the federal government sends in the army to clean up a few snowflakes. And let’s not include Vancouver, either. That’s the place whose city council is busy with social engineering so much it orders that from now on, there ought to be no doorknobs on newly built doors, just plain handles.

The city of Edmonton seems to be following in the footsteps of those two lousy invalids. In a social engineering fit, it busies itself in trying to force taxpayer-supported housing for the homeless on neighbourhoods that would have none of that. It spends our money (your money and mine) on creating bicycle lanes where nobody needs them, endangering pedestrians and traffic in the process. And it wastes untold millions of dollars that belongs to you and me on a professional hockey team’s new arena. Not one shovel has hit the ground yet, and we’ve spent close to $100 million. (You don’t believe it? Just add up all of the expenses already on the books: from lawyer fees to trips to New York, to time spent by city employees working on the file while they could be doing something much more useful. And that’s just expenses calculated at first blush. Never mind buying properties in the area.)

These were only a few examples, by the way. The list seems to be growing day by day.

Newly-elected mayor Don Iveson, answering the calls of enraged population that the city make it its responsibility to clean all roadways (and nobody mentioned sidewalks, not even in passing), says that would double the budget.

First and foremost: a community’s budget should reflect that community’s overall situation. Meaning: heavy snowfalls are a rule in Edmonton, not an exception. Logically, snow removal budgets should reflect that.

There have even been hints that municipal taxes are bound to go up; some have been mentioning increases in the five-per-cent range. The stated reason: the city is responsible for running recreation centres, and that costs money. First of all, that would be money that could have been saved elsewhere. And secondly, and just as importantly, a brief walk through the city’s recreation centres reveals that a huge number of available rooms sits empty. Why? Because the fees to rent them are way too high. Has anyone thought of the innovative idea of lowering the fees, thus making those rooms affordable? It would bring in some revenue; in fact, it could bring in more revenue than originally anticipated. If local groups can afford those rooms, they will be using them from dawn to dusk and beyond. In any case, some revenue is much better than no revenue at all.

If you go through whatever our city administration has been handling in the last few years, you’ll notice that things keep getting more complicated and, consequently, more expensive.

To put it bluntly: successive city councils have been spending our money (your money and mine) like drunken sailors on shore leave. And yet, we keep voting this kind of crowd in.

Pity the city employees who handle the 311 calls. They must have suffered incredible abuse lately, because of the impassable roads. They are not to blame, but they represent the city and the citizens take their frustrations out on them.

The citizens ought to be ashamed of themselves, in the first place. It’s the citizens who keep voting this crowd of irresponsible individuals in.

There should be one single question asked of all candidates: how do you propose to spend our money if we elect you? And no platitudes about spending responsibly and other such drivel. No, be specific: how would your budget proposal look? We want details. If you can’t provide them, no need to apply. And if your proposed budget happens to be strong on social engineering and weak on things that matter most, such as every road passable within 24 hours of a snowfall, no need to apply, either.

There happens to be a group in this city, and a pretty vocal group, at that, that would start yelling that keeping our roads safe shouldn’t be a priority. A vision, they say, that’s what the priority should be. A vision, say, such as spending more than a half of a million dollars on something that claims to be art, putting it right by the entrance to a bridge, that is, at a spot where drivers can’t even slow down to have a look at (never mind enjoy) this ugly contraption.

So, here’s a vision for you: a city where it is safe to live, safe to move from place to place, a city whose council treats taxpayers’ money like money that belongs to the taxpayers, not to council and its special interests.

Now, if that were to happen, we would live in paradise, snowfall or not.

It’s in our hands: if we all go to vote next time around and make sure these rascals don’t get in.

Edmonton city councillor promotes censorship

Edmonton’s brand new city council is opening its term with ham-fisted attempts at blatant censorship.

Bus advertisements offering help to Muslim girls threatened with honour killings are, so far as councillor Amarjeet Sohi is concerned, “racist.”

HUH?

Pray elucidate: which other religion these days condones, no, promotes honour killings of girls who do not obey their fathers’ (or their brothers’) orders? Speaking of brothers, we’re not speaking necessarily of older brothers, we’re speaking of brothers. Period.

An Edmonton Journal  story quotes Sohi thus: “The minute I found out about these ads, I called over to Charlie Stolte, our general manager of Edmonton Transit Service, and showed my displeasure.

“They target one group, and in my mind they were very discriminatory and racist, and there’s no place for that kind of bigotry on city property.”

What a warlord! Mill Woods, the ward he has represented since 2007, should be ashamed of itself for voting the guy in. If for no other reason than because decisions such as this one belong to council, not to individual councillors.

And even if entire council voted to proclaim that telling the truth is racist, it would still amount to unacceptable censorship.

Facts are facts, and we either ignore them because their consequences might not be comfortable (in this case: keeping his mouth shut could cost Sohi votes), and we are prepared to accept the peril of our actions, or we stand up and say, too bad, first, dear complainers, tell us where the advertisement is wrong. Factually wrong, that is.

The fact it says it’s Muslim girls who are in danger in most cases, well, face the facts, will you? And perhaps consider the honour killings that have happened right here, in Canada: all of them perpetrated in the name of Muslim traditions, with some of the perpetrators, when facing Canadian justice system for the crime, yelling it was bloody discrimination, and they had the right to uphold their traditions.

As the Journal  story describes it, the placards on the outside of buses show a photo of young women above the line: “Muslim girls honour killed by their families. Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head? We can help.”

A link to FightforFreedom.us  follows. That’s a U.S.-based group that claims to offer tips for people facing threats just because they want to leave the Muslim faith. It also warns about the “encroachment of Islam on western civilization.”

SIOA (Stop Islamization of America) operates the site. This is the group that put up the same ad in Tampa, Fla. It also ran ads on buses in New York, San Francisco and Miami, offering help to people who wanted to leave Islam and faced family threats as a result.

The group also finds plans to build a mosque near New York’s destroyed World Trade Center site perfectly unacceptable.

What is wrong with all that?

Here’s your answer: NOTHING.

It is a fact of life that people from Arab countries (not all of them of Muslim persuasion, by the way) are leaving their birthplaces in quickly increasing rates, choosing to settle in Western countries, instead.

It is also a fact of life that many who were discontent with their lives in their native countries now try to bring their old traditions, customs and habits to their new homes. Surprisingly, whenever the existing societies object, someone would always raise the specter of discrimination and racism to defend them.

Yes, specter.

First and foremost: discrimination is not necessarily a racist tool. If you, gentle reader, happen to be, say, a girl, you would not be accepting all offers from boys, no matter how handsome, to spend a night or a life in their arms. You would discriminate, deciding on upon whom to bestow the honour and whom to ignore.

And if you happen to be a potential employer, you would also be discriminating when choosing future employees. Only those who know the skills you require need apply.

Is THIS racist in any shape or form?

This was a rhetorical question.

It is a fact of life that many people who come to Western democracies from environments much less savoury can (and often do) have difficulties adjusting to different laws, customs and traditions. First and foremost, they would have to learn that obeying their new countries’ laws is a law upon itself. They have no say about that so far as this aspect of life is concerned. Speaking of laws, this rule has its own name (in Latin, to boot): conditio sine qua non. Meaning: this is how it is, live with it. Secondly, nobody is going to bother newcomers about their customs and traditions with one proviso: they must not be breaking their new countries’ laws. Saying that banning those customs and traditions is discriminatory and racist just doesn’t cut it.

Discriminatory? Yes. Racist? Absolutely not.

It just so happens that Western traditions value life above all. Despite all claims to the contrary, not all cultures (read: traditions and customs) are equal. Some have grown up with times, others still remain drowned in the Middle Ages (or even in ages older than that).

There are a number of customs and traditions Western culture finds abhorrent and unacceptable (female circumcision comes to mind, honour killing comes to mind).

So, when somebody offers a helping hand to potential victims, we should applaud them rather than call them all kinds of politically correct invectives.

But there’s one more point here, and it is much more important than anything mentioned above: since when has a city council the right to censorship?

And, besides, does nobody realize that imposing censorship on any topic, no matter how insulting it can be to our sensibilities (legitimate or otherwise) is one of the first steps to society based on lies?

Most of us can agree that this or that topic is ludicrous, and this or that point of view is damaging to our present and, more importantly, to our future.

Most of us can be wrong.

“Is this how the Canadian Muslim community responds to the desperate circumstances of Muslim girls living in devout Muslim homes? They deny, obfuscate and dissemble,” SIOA founder Pamela Geller wrote when she learned of Edmonton city council’s decision to remove advertising one (ONE!) of its members found objectionable.

“The Muslim community protects the religious honour code, while smearing and libelling the truth tellers coming to the aid of these girls as ‘racists,’ ” Geller added.

Is Geller right? Is Geller wrong?

Facts show she is much closer to the truth than Edmonton councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

If Amarjeet Sohi thought the advertisements were lying, he should have said (and proven) so. Instead, he used a blanket description that, in itself, is a lie.

If remaining members of the Edmonton city council have got any courage left, they should tell councillor Amarjeet Sohi where he gets off. They should tell him in no uncertain words that they do NOT condone censorship.

And if councillor Amarjeet Sohi won’t agree, his voters should do whatever they can to have him removed from council.

Putting Edmonton on the slippery slope that is a direct path toward dictatorship simply won’t do.