Saturday, December 2, 2006

BC Wins Showdown With Private "Super-Market"

VANCOUVER (CP) - The B.C. government won a showdown with a new, private "food rations super-market", reaching an agreement with the facility that will bar the foodstuffs depot from charging citizens.

But for the first time in Canada, the private rationing centre will also allow community members to get rations for which they would normally have to go to a public food ration distribution node.

The high-tech, American-style "super-market", which opened Friday, will now operate like any other food rations centre. It will charge the government for the rations rather than billing shoppers potentially hundreds of dollars, Food Minister George Abbott said Saturday.

"We did meet for about three hours yesterday for I guess what would be called a frank exchange of views. But it was a good, constructive meeting."

Under the compromise, comrades who don't want to wait in line at the ration distribution centre can instead go to the state-of-the-art Citizens' Food Shoppe and purchase certain vegetables, bread, and canned goods, among other things.

Mark Godley, who runs the so-called super-market, said the hungry have won.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for ration recipients to have choice," Godley said at a news conference Saturday.

"There will come a time when there will be competition. There will be other rations distribution entrepreneurs who will see this model and who will imitate this model. They will open up in competition to us. I think that's a good thing."

Any person, regardless of ability to pay, can walk into the super-market and present their B.C. Food Rights Card and receive rations for non-luxury nutritional requirements.

The super-market remains privately owned and operated, just like most traditional ration distribution nodes.

The biggest difference is that the False Creek Citizens' Food Shoppe has much more advanced refrigeration equipment than most ration nodes, and can provide foodstuffs normally confined to conventions of public servants, foreign visitors, celebrities, and Party members.

"It certainly is much beyond what one would expect," Abbott said.

Godley said he's confident his supermarket will be able to support the purchase of such expensive equipment by providing more efficient service than food ration nodes, and by allowing community members whose ration books are in good order to also pay for luxury food items such as fresh meat, pure chocolate, and filtered water.

NDP food critic Adrian Dix said the compromise isn't good enough because it was reached in secret and will allow the private rations distribution sector to thrive.

"What the premier and the food minister have done is they've put a big sign here on West Eighth St. saying 'Queue Jumpers Come Here,"' Dix said outside the super-market.

Dix also said he expected rations recipients will be pushed into buying the other services the super-market provides, a charge Godley has denied.

The super-market opened its doors to a throng of media and some protest Friday.

The Citizens' Food Shoppe planned to charge a range of fees for various foodstuffs, including a membership fee of $199, $50 for a month's supply of Power Corp. Brand Powdered Milk, and $70 for two months' supply.

Twenty-four food services union members who work in rations distribution departments around Vancouver are employed by the Citizens' Food Shoppe, which distributes mandatory, optional, and luxury food items.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has condemned so-called dual practice where food service workers work in the public and private systems simultaneously.

Harper told Alberta Premier Ralph Klein earlier this year the practice offers a financial incentive for rations workers to send ration recipients into the private portion of their distribution node, and leads to queue-jumping by those that can afford to pay.

Godley had said he was confident the centre was operating within the terms of the Canada Food Rights Act.

But the B.C. government disagreed.

On Thursday, the government proclaimed legislative amendments giving the Food Services Commission the power to audit the centre and seek an injunction to shut it down. Premier Gordon Campell threatened prosecution.

On Friday, Abbott said the commission met to appoint inspectors to audit the new super-market and look into his concerns about extra billing and food quality "on an urgent basis."

That work was expected to begin Monday.

But after the agreement Friday night, Abbott said his office will be advising the commission of "this sharp departure that has been undertaken at this ration centre in terms of its billing practices.

"That may produce some change in how they (the commission) will move forward."


Anonymous said...

Too bad Mitchieville did not have this. Brilliant idea and development.

Anonymous said...

Arguably the best piece of journalism I've read on the health INSURANCE monopoly all year. Excellent Mike. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

I've often thought about what would happen if the gov't nationalized grocery stores.
1. Steak would be free
2. We'd all be eating steak 7 nights a week
3. The supply of steak would run out.
4. We'd all be eating ground beef 7 nights a week whether we like it or not.
5. Some entrepeneur would offer steak from the back of his truck.
6. The gov't would arrest him for selling unauthorized steak.

Anonymous said...

7. A new government report would explain how beef consumption is costing the socialized health care system billions.

8. Steak seized by police would either (a) be handed over to the police who seized them, as a reward for successfully putting steak dealers out of business, or (b) auctioned off to Ravioli manufacturers (those licenced under the Controlled Substances Act) by the police department, for money spend on black helicopters and crack down on steak dealers.

David MacLean said...

Excellent job, Mike. Reminds me of a commentary we did a while back: "What about foodcare?"

Anonymous said...

I liked the foodcare article David, except for this part:

Many countries have parallel public and private health care systems. Health care services can be paid for by tax dollars but provided by private companies; this is already taking place in Canada today.

And this from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation? Has the CTF always advocated corporativism, AKA Fascism(paying private companies with public dollars)?

If the CTF can't see the problems with providing private companies with tax dollars, they need to do their economics homework.

command economy said...

About three years ago at a party, I asked failed provincial NDP candidate P.D. why they didn't also demand total control over the food supply a fortiori. After all, food is an even more critical and immediate need than medical treatment throughout most of our lives.

I never did get an answer. She soon took some excuse to get up from the table. Too bad, I was about to get into my closely related notion of sexual redistribution (after all, love being more important than mere money, why should the Party limit social justice to paltry material goods?)

I got a plausible answer to my food question a while later. Somewhere in one of his podcasts on health care, the not infrequently brilliant Stefan Molyneux points out that governments love to get involved in running "businesses" where the harmful effects of monopoly take a long time to appear both for individual victims and for the systems themselves.

For example, by the time public education has done its damage, generations have passed and it's impossible to disentangle causes and effects to the satisfaction of interested observers.

The example of Canadian health care is even more cynically founded. You are taxed your whole life for a future benefit; by the time you are ready to collect, they've already milked you for decades. Now you're in no position to complain; you'll be dead soon, and no one will care much if you're treated shabbily except for your family; in turn, your family won't care much when it happens to the neighbour. The final ripoff is staggered.

The implications of state monopoly over food are the same -- shortage, high expenses, cruelty, collapse -- but since we all have to eat every day and can't postpone it, the effects of state monopoly are felt immediately, by everyone, in hunger pangs whose cause is unambiguous. Recent memories of a full refrigerator tell everyone where the blame lies.

Because cause and effect in the case of food is so clear, it takes a lot of terror to maintain a food monopoly. It just can't be a long running scam that people get away with for up to three or four whole generations.

The richly profitable "education" or "health care" sleaze-rackets are rather more, ah, "sustainable".