13 Sep 2013

Some first impressions on Canada

Coffee worth queuing for
After driving 10,000km from Vancouver to Alaska (Chicken!) to Dawson City to Calgary and back, we moved into a place in Vancouver.

That trip gave us time to see the country, visit with lots of people, and see how they live.

My first impression is that western Canada is very similar to the western US. People are more polite (and perhaps more friendly, in a meaningful way), but there's still that overwhelming emphasis on cars, sprawl and careers.

I am thankful for the good coffee, two public pools within a kilometer of our place, and the nice water-front bike paths.*

I find it interesting that Canadians (sauf les Quebecois) consider themselves successful when they do better than America, rather than the rest of the world. Canada thus has a myopic "small country" perspective.

After several years in the Netherlands, I'm surprised to run into policies that are NOT economic, i.e., they produce anti-social results. For example:
  • The Canadian government taxes bike imports, even though it has no domestic bike industry

  • Vancouver is the bike-theft capital of Canada. The police tell people to "log" their possessions, but it would be better to set up a centralized registry for owners

  • Canada is officially a metric country, but people use feet and pounds all the time, so it helps to be biunital as well as bilingual (see post next week)

  • Provincial governments regulate alcohol sales and set minimum prices. Prices appear to be based on alcohol content (e.g., all rums and vodkas sell for a minimum of 3.17 cents/ml) instead of supply and demand. This means that beer and wine cost more, relatively, than hard liquor. In BC, where we are, government-run BC Liquors has the same prices everywhere. The combination of these policies means that beer and wine drinkers in Vancouver subsidize vodka drinkers 800km to the north. There's at least one group calling for reform

  • Alberta is run by the oil/gas industries, which results in oxymorons like this:
    “We estimate the recent flood [in Calgary] was a 1-in-250-year event and the plan is to build the berms big enough and strong enough to withstand that sort of flow,” McKerracher said.

    “There’s an urgency to this because we’re worried the river could flood again next spring
Bottom Line: Vancouver is, so far, a very nice North American city that we're enjoying (it's not raining yet!). The people here are very friendly, and we're happy to meet them and enjoy all the goodies around here (Commercial Drive).

* Vancouver has recently implemented a number of bike-friendly paths and policies, but it has a LONG way to go before it gets to Dutch quality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the oxymoron:

Basically a 1-in-250-year event does not happen once in 250 years. It just represents the percent chance that it can happen. You can have two different 1-in-100-year events in the same year, or two years in a row. It's just not very likely.

So yes, there is an urgency that it can happen again next spring. The chance is arguably low, but then again there is research that shows that high variability events happen in bunches.

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